Friday, December 17, 2010

Book-A-Day 2010 # 317 (12/17) -- Cairo by G. Willow Wilson & M.K. Perker

I've typed several paragraphs of a review of Cairo -- a DC/Vertigo graphic novel from a few years ago, written by G. Willow Wilson and drawn by M.K. Perker -- twice now, only to have both of them lost to Firefox crashes. (Lesson: don't place too much faith in betas.) So, for this third and I hope last try, I'm avoiding the fripperies and fancy metaphors, all of the oblique beginnings and other look-at-me-ma-I'm-writin'-now tricks, and just diving into a quick summary of the book itself.

(Pauses to save.)

Cairo is pretty ungeneric for mainstream comics: it's an adventure story with an odd assortment of characters and a few supernatural elements, the kind of thing that no one would be surprised to see in a movie, but there are women in prominent roles, it takes place in something resembling the real world, and the characters even occasionally change their (non-skin-tight, non-brightly-colored) clothes. Those six main characters -- as the back cover puts it, "a drug runner, a down-on-his-luck journalist, an American expatriate, a troubled young student, and an Israeli soldier", plus the requisite djinn for appropriate Middle Eastern flavor -- have depth beyond their plot functions (though they all slot pretty easily into Hollywood-appropriate types), and the story they race through, though it does involve a magic hookah and a box containing a very unlikely treasure, involves saving no one but themselves and no tortured speeches about responsibility. In other words, as I hinted, it would make a very mainstream movie or TV show but comes across as shockingly artsy from DC Comics.

And Cairo lives up to that: it's good but not spectacular, entertaining but not transporting, entirely enjoyable to read and even likely to raise a thought or three in the reader's mind about the ways the world really is. Perker's art, in B-movie tones of black and white, occasionally goes a bit broad in the facial expressions -- just as Wilson's script occasionally goes a bit big in the thematic material -- but it supports the story excellently, and that brings us a view of a world almost entirely alien to US comics readers.

Book-A-Day 2010: The Epic Index

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