Saturday, September 11, 2010

Chronic Review: Dawn Not To Touch The Earth!

Dawn: Not to Touch the Earth Image Comics Script: Joseph Michael Linsner Pencils: Joseph Michael Linsner 29 main feature pages + 15 pages of pin-ups and such for $5.99

I believe I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Linsner and this character. Cry For Dawn was a good not great horror anthology from the early 1990s. I used to pick up the books as a badge of honor. It's not that I didn't enjoy them, because I enjoy most horror. The big draw for me was demonstrating how "edgy" I was, sitting coyly, not reading the X-Men. It was my version of Froofery, although the real froofs would certainly have nothing to do with anything as salacious as Dawn. I've got a jean jacket that Turek gave me for a birthday gift with Dawn airbrushed onto it. I love that jacket. Tears streaming down her face with a representation of good old American violence in her hands. It seems sadly appropriate on 9/11, actually. But I digress.

Dawn resonates... something. Jung would probably call her a type or an engram or something. That fact is not lost on Linsner, who has taken a T&A cover girl and evolved her into an eternal symbol of the female end of the life equation. It was probably a wise choice to do that, rather than try to build an empire on a pretty girl bending over and picking up quarters. As nice as that can be, it will get old eventually.

There are dangers in writing a philosophical work as well, of course. In Dawn: Not to Touch the Earth, it seems that we are to learn something about gender roles. Or maybe it's more accurate to say that we're supposed to unlearn the newer garbage we've picked up and return to older roles.

The story goes that good old Darrian Ashoka is having girl troubles. He's made all the right moves with Adelle, but now that they've consummated their relationship, she's decided she's done. She doesn't want any office drama, and shoves his lovely roses back in his face.

Basically, he's a 21st century poof, and it isn't working out.

Enter Dawn, who appears in front of him as a classic damsel in distress. She's wearing the guise of a faeire queen, and seems to have borrowed The Monarch's eyebrows. The horned god symbol is trying to do naughty things to her, and Darrian gets in line with the universe by grabbing an axe and killing his sexual rival. Very primal, very Old School. This is the mindset that pays in the World of Dawn.

So Darrian gets to indulge all of his alpha male fantasies with Dawn, albeit in the dream world. Eventually even this fails to satisfy, and he begins to miss friends and family back home. Dawn obliges him and sends him back. Sort of. She warns him that in order to return to her, he must never let his feet touch the ground.

When he does get back "home", he discovers that while he though he was gone a few scant months, time has shifted forward a great deal more than that. He's now on horseback riding through a future apocalyptic wasteland.

Darrian notices some other douche trying to push up on Dawn, runs through the usual male jealousy jag and rushes to defend her again. As soon as his feet touch the ground - poof - reality catches up with his dream state, and his body turns to ash. Dawn is of course completely non-plussed by the demise of Old News Darrian and picks right up making out with the horned douche that she just got done saying she doesn't love in any way. Ah, the cycle of life!

I'm not particularly in love with any of the philosophy in the book, as I'm sure you've picked up on by now. If this comic is supposed to teach us something about a correct way to synch up with the universe, it would seem we're all pretty much fucked. The best you can hope for is to do a bit of flexing, get laid for a few months, and then recognize that the bargain was no value when the bitch sends you back home after your body is already decomposed while she moves on to the next sap. If that's enlightenment, I'll stay in the dark ages, I guess.

Dawn likes to spout little witticisms that often play well, but sometimes do not. "Trust your feelings", she says. "Only thoughts lead to despair." I find that statement dubious. A neurotic thought obsession can certainly contribute toward despair, but if there is no emotional attachment, there can be no despair. It's integral. Reason never cries, friends, for that you need emotional sadness.

It's pretty obvious from the text notes afterward that this story was supposed to be a kind of 20th anniversary celebration for the 2009. Here we are in the very back half of 2010.

In my circle it's completely unfashionable to be miffed about these sorts of things, but I just can't help myself. Granted, the world continues to turn and my life continues to function even though this comic appears to be a full year late. It's not like I was waiting for this and was missing it - I wasn't even aware of it's existence until we did the show last Monday.

Here's the deal. If I behaved like your average comic book penciller, I'd be fired instantly. Everyone else in the business world is expected to fulfill their obligations, as promised, when it was promised. That's how it works for me. That's how it works for everybody I know who counts. You have a job, you do the fucking job. I don't believe in the "mystic sanctity" of the commercial artist. That is a ridiculous myth that benefits nobody.

To me, excusing the comic artist who cannot meet deadlines puts you in a precarious box. You can believe that they are special, magical creatures hovering above the rest of us because of their arcane powers that we cannot possibly understand and shouldn't expect to appear via our feeble earthly time constructs. You can also assume that the comic book audience is just different and lower than everything else in the economics kingdom and that we don't deserve product unless our artist masters deem it worth their whimsy to favor us with a scrap or two.

When you excuse this chronic childish bullshit, you overvalue the artist to an absurd level, and you undervalue yourself to an unhealthy level. That's reality.

To be fair, that little diatribe is not truly focused on Joe Linsner. He's not flushing a monthly book here, it's a one shot. But it is late. WAY late.

And by the way, I get the part where this is not at the top of Joe's list, because he can make a lot more money doing other things, guaranteed. He can probably make more in one afternoon doing a piece of commissioned work or working up images for some animation studio then he will on Dawn all year. I don't know what Joe does when he's not doing comics, but I can pretty well guarantee that whatever it is...he's making more doing that.

So I understand the lateness rationally. But I still feel disrespected when I see that cover art with the big fat "Linsner 2009" on the cover, and I'm getting it in September of 2010. It's basically reminding me that either this comic isn't very important, that I'm not very important. That's what it feels like.

It's sad. Listen, I will cop to the fact that I'm being a bit of a drama queen about all this. And don't get me wrong - Dawn: Not to Touch the Earth is not the bane of my existence. It's a really pretty comic, and if you're here for the art, you're in for a treat. Aside from Linsner's usual magic, there's a bunch of extra pin-ups in the back by fokes like Adam Hughes and Michael Turner. There's some fantastic photos of Dawn cosplayers, too.

I don't know if that makes the $5.99 feel like a value when I can usually get a first Vertigo trade for something similar. But it's not a bad product, and I guess if it's between getting Dawn a year late or watching her fade way...I'll take this.

- Ryan

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