Ryan M.: There are few things as irrationally irritating as watching someone else flip channels. Each person has an internal rhythm to their choices and since it is such a solitary activity, there is usually no time for discussion before another channel is passed by. No other person is going to press up at the same time that you would, knows which station to linger on or which weird movie moment deserves a press of the “Info” button. Channel surfing puts you into a sort of trance, a disconnection from the world outside of the screen. In Limbo 2, Clay is forced into experiencing the channel surfing of a mystical creature and it transcends mere irritation to become terrifying.
The Teleshaman appears in the video Clay shot on the docks and proceeds to pull him into the television. In the television dreamscape, the Teleshaman stalks Clay from channel to channel until Sandy realizes what is happening and helps Clay extricate himself via the VCR. We also see Sandy communicate with a deity named Papa Legba, who appears as a pipe-smoking fellow made up of tape from a cassette.
The first issue of the comic seemed to set Clay up as a hardboiled detective, but in this issue, we see very little of noir tropes. Instead, the more surreal elements become central and it is definitely to the story’s benefit. Amnesiac Clay functions much better as an audience surrogate experiencing (and snarkily commenting on) the bizarre world of Dedande than as a typical paranormal PI. The issue clearly signals this change, when, rather than a bar fight, the first scene of the issue ends with Clay being sucked into his television.
The world of Clay’s cluttered apartment drops away and we see the ghastly hand reach out from the screen. In the first panel above, the hand’s long and pointy fingers seem to be reaching for Clay’s shocked face. He is shown entering the screen in four successive images. Artist Caspar Winjngaard economically communicates Clay’s struggle not to be taken. In the glow of the TV, we see him try to hold the edges of the screen. He is simply not strong enough to stop the Teleshaman. And the final panel of the page reinforces this by showing him without any of his typical sassy coolness. His wide-eyed stare, with trails coming from his eyes and nose, show a man out of his mind with fear. The choice to rely on black and white for the backgrounds makes the events even more upsetting.
The standout sequence in the issue is the pages of Clay traveling from channel to channel as the Teleshaman waxes poetic about channel surfing as a form of astral projection. Part of the enjoyment of the pages is seeing that vague references to genre and the various worlds available to visit. The Teleshaman’s appearances are to be read in traditional sequence, but trying to track Clay’s movements in the usual left-to-right, top-to-bottom style is futile. Instead, Clay moves from panel to panel in a haphazard fashion. Clay’s form is not bound by the lines between panels and it gives a vitality to the action and a sense of his willingness to ignore the rules that is engaging and fun. His disorientation is clear as he stumbles from a sci-fi battlefield to an abandoned city street. By the time he enters his last destination on the page, he seems to have figured out some of the rules. By recognizing the 2D nature of these worlds, he uses a far-off goal post to boost himself into the upper right panel. What is special about these pages, is that we see Clay’s growing skill and ability to move between channels without any text supporting it. Clay doesn’t even make a comment when he uses a boob for leverage. For a guy like Clay, that is true restraint.
In addition to the genre pastiche of the channel surfing sequence, some of the pop-culture references in the issue are quite specific. As Clay tries to escape by running from panel to panel, the Teleshaman takes the form of a purple Max Headroom. Later, Clay makes a Hamlet reference while holding the skull of the defeated Teleshaman. Dedande is clearly outside of our normal world, with all the magic and people climbing out of VCRs and stuff, but Wijngaard and writer Dan Watters choose to incorporate real references which give a context. By sprinkling in these reference points, they give the story an even more surreal energy.
Teleshaman references the experience of watching a movie late at night that is so strange, “you’re never certain if you saw it or dreamt it.” It’s kind of a forgotten feeling now, with IMDB and on-screen guides for every channel, but there was a time when a bizarre movie would seem to find you and you had no way to verify its existence. There was a sense of wonder to that experience, though not one that I would trade for carrying around a computer in my pocket that can answer my every question. Dedande almost has to be set in a quasi-80’s because a modern Clay would be able to Google his way through the city’s mysteries.
Ryan, what did you think of this issue? I didn’t spend much time on Sandy’s role in this story. How do you feel about her character’s knowledge and use of magic, especially as a foil to Clay’s ignorance? Do you prefer this kind of adventure or are you ready for Clay to get back on a case? Also, is watching other people flip channels universally annoying or am I just a control freak?
Ryan D.: Well, Other Ryan, I agree that channel surfing is disconcerting, and I actually loved how Watters and Winjngaard used it this issue. Aside from reminding me of perhaps the greatest music video of all time, it takes quite a lot of skill to render a different medium — the television — in the comic world, and I found this attempt to be extremely successful. Each different channel brought with it its own filter and visual aesthetic, preying upon classic TV tropes, all engineered to bring mortal peril to Clay and all at the mercy of the remote control. That being said, in this world saturated with love of all things 80’s, I feel as if the creative team blew a fair share of their proverbial load on this particular video game/television excursion, and am interested on seeing where they can go from here without rehashing this territory.
In regards to Sandy and how she fits in this story, her sidebar communications to Papa Legba, the intermediary between humanity and the Haitian Vodou spirits of the Loa, play an integral part of both Clay and the audience’s understanding of the role of magic, folklore, and mythology in this dense, dense, dense world.
While we are still quite unclear on what the rules are in a universe featuring fishmen borrowing from Japanese or European folklore, references to the Mesopotamian fertility god Dagon, the three Avasthas — states of mind — of Hindu/Buddhist traditions, and a contemporary re-imagination and/or bastardization of Native American shamanism, Sandy’s personal interaction and usage of magic inform the reader and Clay of the axioms which govern this hodgepodge world. Pile all of these Eastern and European concepts on top of the definitively American flavor of Noir and playful 80’s motif leaves us with a steaming plate that is at least interesting to look at, though I still need to decide whether I really love it or not.
Watters and Winjngaard load Limbo with layers upon layers of material. The challenge that remains is to whether they can write their intricate Noir stories, all with a clear sense of urgency, while they flesh out their blank protagonist and, most importantly, make Dedane a living, breathing city. They face steep competition in the form of another mythology-based neon-noir in Ales Kot’s Wolf. Interestingly enough, the two comics use neons completely differently: while Wolf uses neon as a palette to accentuate the cool and dangerous, Limbo utilizing its bright fluorescents to puncture the dark of its teeming and unexplored world.
This approach comes across as stylish by not safe, and I have found it more visually pleasing with each read-through of the comic. The amount of potential I think this aesthetic holds is great, to the point that I do not even mind the feeling that the creators and I are figuring out this universe step by step, instead of having a rigid, presupposed vision.
Issue two succeeded in not falling into a trap which threatens many who hope to emulate the Dashiell Hammett style of Noir classics featuring elaborate overarching plots, which is to allocate a preponderance of attention to the big picture without ever wrapping up or finding closure for smaller threads. With the Teleshaman apparently deposed, Clay can now get back on the beat, out of the realm of pure mysticism, and do some quality hard-boiled PI work. This odd hybrid of a title is swamped with promise, and I would urge readers to stay tuned to see what this creative team has in store for this kooky universe; besides, nobody like a channel surfer.
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?