Images & Words – Captain Swing #3

[images & words is the comic book pick-of-the-week at OL. equal parts review and diatribe, the post highlights the most memorable/infuriating/entertaining book released that wednesday]

Sometimes a narrative’s theme is so compelling that the accompanying flaws and lapses  itself can be forgiven. Hell, sometimes the golden idea, the kernel of truth lodged in the ventricle of the story, is so powerful that the plot becomes secondary. It’s welcomed to ride shotgun, but sure as hell ain’t wrestling away the wheel from the thematic content.

Such is the case with Captain Swing and the Electrical Pirates of Cindery Island.

So what is this book all about? Hrm — let me think. Well, it’s sort of a steampunk vision (don’t tell Warren Ellis I said that, I think he’s made a point of referring to it as not-steampunk) of Old Tyme, 19th Century England, in which a futurist-pirate uses his electricity-based weapons and flying boat to intercede on the behalf of those few law officers who haven’t been corrupted. This third issue sees the Captain bringing a young constable back to Cindery Island, the electrical laboratory where he conducts his experiments of mad science. Unfortunately, they’ve been tracked by a crooked cop who attempts to destroy the refuge.

Violence and death and clever quips ensue.

This is pretty solid stuff in terms of plot. We’ve got a kooky scientist hoping to bring about the future by maintaining a hidden research island and hopping into the thick of a law enforcement schism. Sick. Unfortunately, since the last issue came out nearly a year ago, I found myself trying to remember what had happened and I eventually dug into my archives. As a four-issue miniseries, I think Captain Swing would’ve benefitted from four monthly releases. Or, perhaps it should’ve skipped the individual issues and gone right into trade format.

But again, I don’t fawn over Captain Swing because of the sequence of events it details. And although Raulo Caceres’ art is admirable and worth second (and third) readings, that’s not what keeps me pondering, either. As you’ve probably guessed, Ellis has hooked my bottom-feeding ass with a motif-lure.

Not unlike Doktor Sleepless, this comic is dedicated to the notion that the future is an aspiration. To realize it, we must dedicate a tremendous amount of time, energy, and effort. More importantly, we need to recognize the fact that we can realize our dreams of progress, despite what others may claim.

In a wonderful page of prose, Ellis writes:

They chose men to have the veils of society, big and small, torn from their eyes. Some men, it will drive mad. Some men, it will turn into brutal and unquestioning functionaries of a callous State. And some men…this man, I think…some men will be unable to see the world as anything but an ugly, unfair, unsaveable zoo filled with animals who would savage them at the first available opportunity just for being zookeepers. Just for keeping them alive and safe.

Utopian fool that I am, I feel that to be the cruelest thing of all.

The future marches on. And on. And on. And those who stand in its way are trampled over, faces pushed deep into the very primordial slime that they fetishize. There’ll always be those who wax nostalgic, singing praises of the ideals of an era that never existed.

But sooner or later, forward momentum catches up to them and grabs them by the collar and screams, “Take a look at this! Our present is filled with miracles, and if we work hard enough our future can be even more miraculous! You need to kill the delusion of a revisionist history! For tomorrow, you need to embrace today!”

And the truth is, today is all we’ve got. So let’s not live like there’s no tomorrow, let’s live like it is tomorrow.