Sunday, August 01, 2010

Book-A-Day 2010 # 179 (8/1) -- Tokyo Days, Bangkok Nights by Vankin Fisher Camuncoli Martinbrough

I felt like presenting the author credits in the title as if they were a law firm -- since so many comics credits feel that way, particularly with the long list of random suits in the front matter of corporate comics collections -- but, to be nice, I'll untangle them before there's any confusion. Tokyo Days, Bangkok Nights collects two "Vertigo Pop" miniseries, part of one of DC Comics's many aborted efforts to start a new line doing something-or-other, though this one was even vaguer and died even faster than most. Both series -- which have only thematic connections -- were written by Jonathan Vankin, with art for Tokyo provided by Seth Fisher and the drawing side of Bangkok from the team of Giuseppe Camuncoli and Shawn Martinbrough.

These are both stories about Americans -- not fully Ugly, but definitely with some warts and deformities -- journeying to The Mysterious East, and being stymied by the fact that They Do Things Differently Here. In other words, they're both piles of hoary cliches -- Bangkok even more than Tokyo, since the former seems to want to be the happy-ending version of Chinatown, while the latter is happy just to be manic and goofy -- that were old when Rudyard Kipling bent them to his use.

To be more specific, Tokyo follows the adventures of Steve, a blonde naif of an American who moved to Tokyo -- despite the fact that he speaks no Japanese, even after six months, nor does he have any kind of a job -- because he likes gadgets, and the Japanese have more gadgets than anyone else. (Pay attention to that, because it's all that's going to pass for character development for ol' Steverino.) He accidentally runs into a local schoolgirl who wants to use him to practice her English, which snowballs into a one-damn-thing-after-another plot, gathering up cosplayers, an idol band, both incompetent and competent yakuza gangsters, and several kitchen sinks as it rolls along. It's never quite as silly as it seems it should be, but Fisher's very cartoony (and utterly noseless) art holds up its side of the goofball derby very well.

Bangkok is more "serious," in the usual Vertigo style -- an American couple (he: minor actor Marshall, her: vaguely feminist Tuesday) go on vacation in Bangkok to fix their relationship. Neither of them have any reason to want to go to the sex-tourism capital of the world, but, of course, they do get caught up in the plight of two young women from a rural village, held in a Bangkok brothel against their will by the usual gangster. Add a cut-price elephant, an obsessed American man who does travel to Bangkok for what it's world-famous for, his only very slightly less morally repellent British friend, and a lot of dialogue that substitutes attitude (of several different kinds) for meaning, and you have an unpleasant broth that seems to come down with a moral of "you just can't stop Those People from sexually enslaving their hot poor women, so you might as well just enjoy it." (I seriously hope that wasn't what Vankin intended to express, but it's the message that does come across.)

So, together, it's two big slabs of Oh, Those Inscrutable Orientals! That may not have been why Vertigo Pop ended after these two series, but it's a good enough reason to be happy it did. Now the only question is: why did these two failed series from 2002-03 got a combined trade paperback in 2009?
Book-A-Day 2010: The Epic Index

No comments:

Post a Comment