Dark Rain

by on Aug.30, 2010, under Comics

As former Bush chief of staff Andrew Card educated us all when it came to the Iraq War, ”From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August.” That’s my excuse for falling silent, anyway: there hasn’t been anything new to review.

But we have hit the five-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, and for that we get Dark Rain, set in New Orleans during the flood. It’s an edifying contrast with Sweets, which I panned not too long ago: it is possible use a caper plot and relatively stock characters to explore an interesting landscape and have the result turn out well. But you need to do the work to make the landscape vivid.

The caper is this: a couple of ex-cons team up to rob a bank in the middle of the flooded Ninth Ward. One is a greedy, weaselly former bank employee, the other an ex-paratrooper who just wants enough to settle his child-support debts. They’re in a race with the mercenaries of Dark Rain (i.e., Blackwater), and as they motorboat through New Orleans’ watery streets they interact with many of the disaster’s iconic scenes: People trapped and dehydrated on rooftops. Dead bodies face down in the floodwaters. The overpass from which some people were lifted by helicopter. The chaos and abandonment of the Superdome. The blockade on the bridge to Gretna.

They don’t just pass these incidents by in the background, either. The main characters, or at least characters who end up in the story, interact with each event. Think of it as the Titanic approach to storytelling: work a conventional plot into a well-known disaster and invite your audience to enter it through your characters.

It’s worth mentioning, by the way, that Mat Johnson is sadly one of the few successful indie comic writers in America who writes about race and racism at all. It’s like him, Adrian Tomine, Howard Cruse’s Stuck Rubber Baby, and that’s about all I can think of. So check this out, and check out his earlier, really fantastic Incognegro.

Brief preview below the fold.

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