Why Comics?

The End of the World as We’ve Never Known It

Regardless of one’s faith, the Apocalypse of St. John is an absolutely terrifying vision.   I remind us of this fact to pose a question: which is further afield of Biblical doctrine — beatific cherub guardian angels on our shoulders or metallic angels with guns?  The presence of the latter is but one reason to pick up Ted McKeever’s astounding Metropol.  Others are his tonally perfect disturbing art style (on which I will elaborate elsewhere on this site), his literally gritty depictions of city life (be it in the throes of hell on earth or just the everyday hellish), the sheer ugly horror of an unstoppable pandemic that leads to the quarantine of an entire metropolis, and scenes of such formal experimentalism and hallucinatory eeriness as this:

Epic Comics  © Ted McKeever art: Ted McKeever  book: Metropol  publisher: Epic Comics  © Ted McKeever

Epic Comics  © Ted McKeeverart: Ted McKeever  book: Metropol  publisher: Epic Comics  © Ted McKeever

Epic Comics  © Ted McKeeverart: Ted McKeever  book: Metropol  publisher: Epic Comics  © Ted McKeever

Epic Comics  © Ted McKeeverart: Ted McKeever  book: Metropol  publisher: Epic Comics  © Ted McKeever

Epic Comics  © Ted McKeeverart: Ted McKeever  book: Metropol  publisher: Epic Comics  © Ted McKeever

Epic Comics  © Ted McKeeverart: Ted McKeever  book: Metropol  publisher: Epic Comics  © Ted McKeever

What’s important to notice is that this whole sequence is “one take”: it’s one long pullback.  We begin across from those loading dock steps as a car pulls away, pan over to the man on crutches, pullback as a mysterious woman peers out her window, round the corner to the Hotel Ankh, back into an alleyway with working girls, fall back into a bar, hit the john, exit backward out the window reflected in the bathroom mirror into a tiny storeroom, back down a hallway, turn and back away from an employees only door, descend some steps, decline the invitation to an opened door, watch the offerer fade into nothingness, sidestep trucks peeling across the desert, linger on their dust, remove ourselves further to try to discern the breadth of some sort of smokestack filling our field of vision, and finally exit out the pupil of a deranged soul who is vainly trying to reassure a hanged man that he acted properly.

So few comic artists have attempted this film technique, but McKeever just takes the feeling of that continuous movement from this movie trope.  He’s too smart an illustrator to simply try to ape another field without realizing what is vital to his own.  The ending is pure illustration.  I’m not sure I can think of another comic book artist who has so boldly and effectively used negative space.  The overwhelming use of black deepens the mystery of the sequence, giving us holes to fall into.  The shape formed by the little white on the ultimate panel of the second to last page also suggests an eye and therefore foreshadows the ending. And very rare is the artist who can combine outright simplicity with spot meticulous rendering and filthy textural fills in only those inches they are called for.  To continue with the film theme, the cumulative effect is similar to the unease created by David Lynch’s unsettling oeuvre.  McKeever transcends this by doing it with images so strong and perfectly selected that we don’t need them flying by at 30 frames per second: we can linger on their haunting beauty indefinitely.

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4 thoughts on “The End of the World as We’ve Never Known It

  1. scott r says:

    Metropol is one of my all-time favorites – I’m glad you’ve used it in your post. It’s pure genius.

  2. I have yet to read Metropol but I think now I must.

    Notice that the two names the character uses are Stan and Jack? Is that coincidence, a subtle nod or is there some greater meaning?

  3. consequentialart says:

    Stanley (Stan LEE) even. Nope, I don’t think I had ever noticed that! I love it!

    I’m not really sure it’s significant though. McKeever is one of the few American guys who seems to owe nearly nothing to Marvel’s dynamic duo, (by which I mean Jack and the guy who removed Jack’s exclamation marks.) Maybe the early monster books… Big Barda? I’m stretching.

    Thanks for all the smart comments, here and throughout. Buy the book. Image should now have the new collection available. You will certainly not be disappointed, and I think you’ll see McKeever has far bigger fish to fry than some Warren Ellis-like nod to the superhero greats.

    I’m thinking more “Spring-healed” Jack.

  4. McKeever’s work in the late 80’s and 90’s was superb. Metropol, Eddy Current and Transit. I loved his color exploration in Plastic Forks. There was a growth in these series and later a slightly different McKeever on the Vertigo work he later did. Personally I loved the titles I mentioned best of all. Some of the other work was using that 90’s coloring method that sometimes made most comic art hollow. I also liked Toxic Gumbo. Favorite cover of all-time was his “Shred” #1. Something beautiful about that cover.

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