We Want Only the Earth

Turncoat, published by Boom Studios

If you remove the English army tomorrow and hoist the green flag over Dublin Castle, unless you set about the organization of the Socialist Republic your efforts would be in vain. England would still rule you. She would rule you through her capitalists, through her landlords, through her financiers, through the whole array of commercial and individualist institutions she has planted in this country and watered with the tears of our mothers and the blood of our martyrs.

James Connolly

At University I studied Post-Colonial literature, except that was too political a term to use at the time so instead the likes of Chinua Achebe and V. S. Naipaul were presented in a course called Commonwealth literature. Fantasy and sci-fi literature have examined ideas around colonialisation and Empire in books like Iain M. Banks’ Culture novels and even Starship Troopers (the movie at least). In comics leading lights in this field include Joe Sacco and maybe a trove of Bande DessinĂ©e I am ignorant of (for which I take full responsibility.) And now we have Turncoat from author Alex Paknadel.

The book is set in New York in the years around the defeat and departure of an occupying power, the Management, an alien race who conquered the planet. The Management had their own power structure and many had a vested interest in maintaining it. The turncoat of the title is Marta Gonzalez, a cop who turned on the Management at the last minute and provided intel to bring them down. Management loyalists forced Marta to quit the force and become a private eye, but in true hard-boiled film noir detective fashion she takes on a case that opens a Pandora’s Box of corruption and deceit. She is forced to confront hard truths about her society and herself.

Turncoat takes a look at the tough reality of building a new state, the competing interests of idealistic revolutionaries against the hard-nosed carpet-baggers ready to come in and make a packet. Some get compromised, and as the founders of the Irish Free State found out, accusations of compromise can have bloody consequences.

The likes of 2000 A.D. weren’t afraid to take on subjects like this under the guise of the fantastic, and Turncoat gave me a strong 2000 A.D. vibe – a great credit to any work. The idea of the sprawling mega-city in semi-collapse held together by brutal policing, with the decaying infrastructure of an alien race scattered around. Artyom Trakhanov‘s art has a fluid, organic style and depicts this society perfectly with it’s filthy alleyways and pulsing, twisted hybrid bodies. Judge Dredd artist the late Carlos Ezquerra would be one reference point for me, although I couldn’t help thinking about good old Sam Slade – Robohunter and his artist Ian Gibson.

This world really would not be the same without the pulsing sickly yellows and greens of colorist Jason Wordie which lends the city its queasy, menacing air. Colin Bell does a fine job on the lettering with fonts suggesting the 1920’s when tommy guns roared from Chicago to Cork.

Turncoat came out in 2017 so I am a bit late with this review, but author Alex Paknadel asked me to let him know what I thought when I bought it from him at Dunfermline Comic-Con and I got a bit carried away! An enjoyable and thoughtful work which explores topics not often seen in the comics medium.

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