META 4 #5

by on Apr.04, 2011, under Comics

When I reviewed the first issue of Meta 4 I wrote: “okay, Ted, I’ll give you five issues’ worth of rope. Try not to hang yourself.”

And when I got and read this last issue, I thought Ted McKeever had pretty well hung himself. The story seemed too bizarre, too packed with competing weird ideas. Most problematically, this was a book that explicitly billed itself as an “allegorical series,” yet I couldn’t figure out what it was supposed to be an allegory for.

But just like I gave the series a chance in the first place out of respect for McKeever, I decided I should read all five issues straight through to see if they made any more sense like that.

And they did. Everything clicked into place. I think (and this was never my strong-suit philosopher so I’m not sure, but I think) that McKeever has written a Heideggerian allegory in comic-book form.

A lot of what distracted me initially were the details: why was the unnamed amnesiac hero in a spacesuit? Why did his Amazon protector speak only in pictograms? Why did bullets talk to him and tell the story of a SWAT team raid on a hostage crisis? The main character is obsessed with these details too, at first.

The amnesiac is perhaps Dasein. As this gentleman explains:

The “there” of there-being may be disclosed by attunement or by understanding. The “there” of there-being is also the thrownness of its being, in that Da-sein always discovers that it is already in-the-world.

Instead of figuring them out, though, our hero slowly comes to realize that their reasons do not matter. We never come to fully understand the hero’s past or his world, and neither does he. “My past no longer fits me,” he says. “Time enough to let it go.”

And when the amnesiac stops struggling, he ends up experiencing transcendence, alone on a desert mountaintop. He tells us:

I no longer have even the slightest desire to find out or figure out how I came to be there in the first place. It no longer makes any difference connecting every single thread that bridges all the dots of my past: It brings about not one change to this moment of translucent elevation.

All of which is not to say that everything said is exact. All human stories are subject to interpretation regardless of intent—only that is as true as I could make it.

Or:

Da-sein understands itself by projecting itself as its thrown possibility. The thrownness of Da-sein is its “having been,” and the projected possibility of Da-sein is its “already being” and its “not yet.” Thus, Da-sein unifies the past, the present, and the future. The past, present, and future are referred to by Heidegger as the “ecstacies” of temporality. Temporality is “ecstatic,” and is the meaning of there-being. Da-sein temporalizes itself in its being-in-the-world. Da-sein reveals the “ecstatic” unity of temporality.

McKeever’s art has always been distinctive. He used to always draw his characters blocky, with long squarish limbs, in childlike pen-and-ink cityscapes, and there are traces of that style in the first couple issues of META 4. But META 4 is at least partially painted, I think, not drawn, and by the end of issue #5 he’s doing these incredible negative desert landscapes in stark white and black, rock faces he turns into abstract Modernism. It echoes the final moments of the story beautifully, especially when the hero stands atop his mountain, naked, as perfect as Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. It’s an entirely different level of power than what he could get out of two-dimensional Eddy Current, for example.

Since its a book that does have to be read all at once to be appreciated, I hope Image does do a collected version.

Preview below the fold.

 

 

 

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4 Comments for this entry

  • Will

    I recently brought it off the back of your heidegger hook – my first adult comic!! – I’m finding it mind bending thus far. I have not read all of this post yet, as I havn’t read all of the issues and I am enjoying the tension between the surrealism for its own sake and trying to work all out.

    I’m glad you thought the pictograms were at first odd – I thought perhaps it was standard practice!

    Cheers for the heads up!

    Will.

  • Joshua Malbin

    Thanks, Will. Let me know if you think I’m on or off base with the Heidegger thing. I could be completely wrong.

    Welcome to adult comics!

  • Will

    Cheers, I’m gonna organize my thoughts on it after I’m done with chapter 1 of Less Than Nothing.

    Fav quote from Meta 4 : “Ironically enough, words like retrospect hold no relevance to my present condition. And yet, I still fully comprehend their applicational weight.”

    The visuals are strikingly brilliant. Can you recommend anything else cut from the same mould as Meta 4 (I assume McK past works)?

  • Joshua Malbin

    It depends on what you like about McKeever. If it’s visual, his old stuff looks a bit different but is still recognizably the same style, and his new series Mondo looks a lot like this. Rick Veitch’s The One looks a bit similar. If it’s the semi-insane surrealism that refuses to ever settle down and make conventional sense, I would check out David Lapham’s Young Liars, Dave McKean’s Cages, or Anders Nilsen’s Dogs and Water or Big Questions. For a book that wrestles with grown-up literary questions, try Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home.

    Look forward to your thoughts.

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