Today, Greg and Shelby are discussing Veil 3, originally released May 7th, 2014.
Greg: Think about someone you adore spending time with. Someone who adds a unique spark to life, who brings out the best in you, who seems to possess complementary qualities to your flaws. Have you ever spent time with this person only to find that they’re in a funk? That their spark is gone, their energy depleted, their pizzazz evaporated? It’s a dreary social situation that can really take a lot out of you. This person is supposed to be your fuel; how are you gonna get anywhere if they don’t have the gas? Reading this issue of Veil is a little like that; because I’ve loved this comic immensely thus far, watching it narratively sputter and momentarily declaw its main figure of intrigue was an unfortunately deflating experience.
Dante, our hapless “hero”, takes the week off in an issue that largely serves to show how powerful — and how frustratingly enigmatic — the forces at play are. Cormac is holed up in a big, spooky church, asserting how spooky his powers are, how dominant he is over his adversaries (“I so see you”), and singing jazz standards all the way. Meanwhile, Scarborough, who has his top men watching Cormac at all times (though Cormac informs us, not sneakily enough), gets grilled by business folks who clearly don’t understand what they’re dealing with. While many specifics are unclear, two key details emerge: everyone wants Veil, alive and well, and Cormac is too big and powerful to be allowed to stay alive. However, Cormac’s method of capturing Veil for his own devices is bizarre yet aggressively effective — possess a blood red demon rat to destroy Veil’s protector rat, bite her, and possess her to hypnotically make her way to the spooky mansion. And when all the players come to a head for a big confrontation, Cormac has a final aggressively effective tactic, turning Veil into a giant demon creature that does not seem terribly happy.
At times it feels like a chess match; Cormac and his rat on one side, Scarborough and his men on the other, and Veil is the prized piece both groups are fighting for (“He’s got to understand that she’s ours…that we own her now”). But while I may be terrible at chess, I understand enough to know that pieces don’t move on their own. They bend to the will of the player. They have no agency or independent motivation. While this story has thus far ambiguously explored the ideas of masculine control and entitlement versus female authority and autonomy, this issue squarely and bluntly makes the only female under control (from a weirdo rat, no less). Men are fighting over Veil, but Veil isn’t fighting over herself. Though I do understand it’s probably one chess move that’s serving a larger narrative strategy, so much of my pleasures of this comic came from seeing Veil in action, not Veil’s inaction. Thus, this is a progression I’m not sure I’m into, and one I hope gets resolved soon.
So what did I enjoy this time around? Toni Fejzula’s artwork continues to astound and overwhelm me; it exists in a world far away from any “true” representative space, yet never feels show-offy or distracting. It’s informative to Greg Rucka’s narrative world, yet formally additive all on its own. For one, with the (at least partial) revelation that yes, this is magic and yes, it is (at least partially) based in Satanism, the color palettes that evoke stained-glass windows suddenly click into place on a deeper level than pure aesthetics. Plus, as a longtime fan of darker stories and genres, particularly in the horror sphere, I’m decently jaded when it comes to violent imagery. Yet Fejzula’s brilliant usage of fragmentation and suggestion over out-and-out revelation falls perfectly on the “what you’ve drawn is terrifying/what I’m imagining is terrifying” continuum, resulting in quite the viscerally revolting reveal.
Speaking further on fragmentation, Fejzula also reveals refreshingly welcome character insights in a comic that’s often powered by obscurity. I’ve had an inclination that Cormac and Veil are two sides of the same coin, and with one simple layout, Fejzula shows us that while they’re similar, they’re not identical. Whether the differences are as abstract as ideological differences or concrete as gender, Fejzula is making it clear that we can expect a great deal of well-matched conflict from these two down the road.
So what do you think, Shelby? Were you as frustrated as I am with Veil’s lack of action and the story’s lack of clarity? Or were you more patient, trusting that Rucka and Fejzula are playing a long con that needs to be seen through to appreciate? Either way, I think we can all agree that chess is dumb.
Shelby: I don’t know that it’s chess which is dumb, or that I am just too dumb for chess. In either case, I think our best bet here is to trust the masters Rucka and Fejzula and let them play the game out.
I do see where you’re coming from with your frustrations at Veil’s seeming loss of agency, but I would argue that she hasn’t had all that much agency in this story yet. True, she can compel people to do whatever she likes (and that thing she likes seems to be mostly suicide), but I feel her actions have largely been purely instinctual. She’s a wounded animal in survival mode, and will respond accordingly when threatened. While I might cheer a little bit at her very effective form of self defense in the face of assault, I don’t think it shows any definitive action on her part, just reaction. I think the real question is, at what point are we going to see Veil as something more than an animal? Is she capable of being anything more than an animal?
I think Rucka is hitting on something very interesting here about women and their own possession of themselves. Last issue, when asked why she would expect to be treated any differently when walking down the street naked (a horrifyingly gross sentiment), her response was, “That’s not my fault…That’s just how I was.” She wasn’t trying to exist as a sexual object, it was the men around her who forced her into that role. And here, Cormac has turned her into some sort of horrifying demon. Is that who/what she really is? Or is this just another role the men in this book have forced her to assume? Honestly, I don’t think Veil has ever shown any agency herself in this book because this is Rucka’s interpretation of society’s ideas on possessing women. There’s a lot of pressure to look a certain kind of woman in society; everywhere you look, you see someone telling you you’re doing it wrong. I don’t mean to say there isn’t that pressure for men as well, but I think for women the pressure is based more on appearance than action. Feel free to call me out on this, but I think society is more likely to judge men’s value based on his action, whereas women’s value is determined more by their appearance. Veil doesn’t have any agency of her own because women in this world aren’t expected to; she is to look a certain way and then be treated accordingly.
The big question, though, is what’s next for this book? Are Rucka and Fejzula going to continue to show us an exaggerated look at society’s possession (ha!) of women as seen through the veil (HA!) of the horror genre? Or is Veil finally going to find the kind of ally she needs to begin to reclaim agency for herself? Hopefully it’s the latter, and hopefully she can find an ally better than a literal rat from the sewer; girl deserves better than that.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?