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category: Gazette,Review

A School to Enrol In

Wednesday, October 8, 2014 by

About a year back, I started receiving packages from places unrelated to me in any way - I got a package from Taiwan containing some earrings, I got a package from Wales containing a blazer and a dress (Monsoon brand), and other such assorted international goods. While I was sure, at first, that these packages were nothing more than an attempt to persuade me to keep my silence about something that happened far away in my deep dark past (involving a pair of delightful turkeys, a less delightful man from Turkmenistan, and a box of freshly made turkish delights) it soon became apparent to me that I might be at the centre of a hoax. A hoax of...international proportions.

The author with his Monsoon bribes.
The author with his Monsoon bribes.

So this week, when a package arrived from Wales, I thought ‘oh shit they’ve found me again’.

As I accepted the package into my life, I thought of all the people I love and how I should go about saying goodbye. How does one go about saying goodbye nowadays? I assumed a Facebook group called ‘Goin Away soon Party’ would suffice.

I opened the package, and this foreboding picture came out.

Mosta Dome aka Mosta Market
Mosta Dome aka Mosta Market

Seeing as I live but a mere 5 minutes from this site, I thought it was a sign of things to come. Then I opened the package and I realized that it was a sign of things to come – but not from this world.

“The story of Genesis follows a chosen few seemingly bound by fate to reunite decades after what we call #TheEvent has happened. Where we jump in, (issue 1) #TheEvent has just happened. What exactly transpires once these chosen few reunite is to be revealed but it is their journey that we follow throughout. Eventually the entire story will span over 40 years.”

Genesis is a comic book series from Welsh-Maltese art collective School of Bitches. You may have run into them in the last two Malta Comic Cons, along with Joseph Muscat, who took time out of his schedule to check out a dystopian ‘future’ of Malta, under a massive banner saying ‘School of Bitches’, which must have made for a glorious photo op.

And so it did.
And so it did.

Genesis is an entire story that is mapped across 50 chapters. I had received Chapter XVI: Virtue’s Chronicles Part Two, so you can imagine how wild this is going to get. Ostensibly taking place after #TheEvent (a global catastrophe involving, but not limited to, nuclear attacks, unusual weather patterns, falling satellites, and foreign invasions), the story revolves around people in different countries, with one of the storylines following what happens in Malta, which should lead to an interesting take on our country, a country that rarely gets to be interpreted in unusual ways in any media, least of all dystopian.

A back road in Valletta aka The Green Zone
A back road in Valletta aka The Green Zone

As I read the comic, the feelings I’d get when I used to collect comics came rushing back. I used to be a big zombie comic guy, the more gruesome, the better, and writer/artist Alan Stealth’s drawing style reminded me of something Dark Horse might print and early Warren Ellis or Garth Ennis might have written on.

A particularly interesting format School of Bitches has decided to use is one without any borders – as they explain themselves, ‘for sequential art (comics) perhaps more than any other form, its evolution is beleaguered from its very inception by the convention of the frame’, which is one hardcore way of saying they don’t like lines. However, I must say that it does give a very continuous, even more realistic feel to the comic, as if it was a film – even if the black and white colour scheme sometimes made things feel a bit too chaotic and hard to make out.

You be the judge.
You be the judge.

Maybe a light and dark toned colour scheme would work better in future editions, similar to the cover, postcards, and first two pages of the comic.

Dystopian novels, if they are going for that survivalist approach, and attempting to create a whole world and mythology around the event and the post-event hangover, have to walk a fine line between introducing characters, intertwining stories, past and future, all in a bleak world with very little humour or joking, and keeping the reader interested. So the comic relief, in a sense, comes from the gratuitous violence that ultimately arises from being a survivor after a global catastrophe.

It is very hard to feel any empathy for a character you barely know when they are staring at their old house destroyed to bits; however, it is very easy to feel empathy, or at least feel involved, when people collide and violence erupts. The pacing that Stealth and Dhalia (writer/letterer) use is slow, which may cause some readers to not make it to the end; however this just emphasises the violence more when it happens, and allows for 1 page scenes to really pop out.

So far, only two issues have been released of Genesis, but from the looks of things, the story could be very far reaching, with lots of interconnecting stories, and even better, a vision of a dystopian Malta, where the government has been massacred due to inefficiency and the Mosta Dome was one of the last bastions of survival. While that sounds like a standard election story, Genesis promises “endings that are tragically real, and the answer you’re looking for is not ‘they’re all already dead.’”

It is refreshing to see Malta become part of a larger, international story; it seems we are always either relegated to not being invited to any of the comic parties, dystopian or otherwise, or just being referred to in Medieval terms, with falcons and Grandmasters always having to be involved. Just seeing images of an alternate modern version of Malta is enough to get my attention – but will it be enough for the Maltese audience if not backed up by intrigue, mystery, and loads of violence?

Check out issue 1 for free here 

Check out the profiles of School of Bitches here

Category Gazette,Review

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