Mark: I come from a large, mixed-race family. All of my siblings are adults now, and as everyone has scattered across the country to forge their own paths, one thing that hasn’t changed is our fierce loyalty to each other. When a family member needs help, the Mitchells circle the wagons. That’s the power of family.
The idea of fealty to family is central Steve Orlando and Jakub Rebelka’s Namesake 1. In the future, once every seven years Earth and Ektae overlap for a week of bacchanal. Humans and Sidhan mingle, party, and, of course, bone (luckily, Sidhan venereal diseases are only active during the alignment). Sidhan are humanoids with strange runes on their bodies and some of them have The Blood (the ability to wield the Typhic Force—magic on our world).
Silent films used to be projected with color tints placed over the lens during specific scenes to heighten the emotions of the moment. Artist Jakub Rebelka’s paints the world of Namesake in similarly stark and vivid colors that organically compliment the emotion of scenes. Reds for violence, blues for solemn moments, explosions of color are used to illustrate the conflicting moments that make up the chaos and joy of Ektae’s Blessing.
Jordan Molossus is a little of both worlds, one his fathers is from a Earth, the other from Ektae. Abandoned by his parents as a child, Jordan has grown up on his own and is working as a firefighter in Hartford, Connecticut. Jordan’s past seems to be a bit of mystery, even to him. Still, the bounty decreed on Jordan’s head by an Ektae crime lord tells us that he is clearly no stranger to the seedier elements of Ektae.
On the first day of Ektae’s Blessing, a mysterious box is delivered to Jordan’s home. Inside is a note from one of his fathers, the ashes of both contained in two cast iron urns, and a request for Jordan to travel to Ektae to bury his parents where they met. But if that sounds romantic, it’s also odd. Jordan’s Sidhan father was notably a Bad Dude, and it seems like no mistake that the urns are made of cast iron, since we learn that cast iron disrupts the magic on Ektae. And while we don’t see it play out this issue, the cover shows Jordan wielding the urns in a way that makes them look like a weapon. It’s clear there’s more happening here than Orlando is letting on in this first issue.
I’m also not sure what’s motivating Jordan to comply with the request. Why be loyal to his parents? What does he owe two men who abandoned him? Is it curiosity about his past? Whatever the precise alchemy of Jordan’s motivations, there’s a weight in a request from our family to which we can all relate.
This week’s US presidential election has been weighing heavily on my mind the past couple of days. At first I was really worried about what the results meant for me, how it was going to effect my life. But the further away we get from the initial shock, and the more I think about it, the more I realize how lucky I am. Every day I am surrounded by people that I love and who love me. So even when things get bad and when things get dark, we will always have each other. That’s the power of family, whether it’s the family we’re born into or the family we choose.
What I worry about, then, is the people who don’t have this sort of safe space. That is what makes me sad.
What’d you think, Patrick?
Patrick: Oof, I’m not sure what I think rightly fits into a conversation about Nakesake 1. Writer Steve Orlando does touch on a number of cultural pressure points — from the celebration that can be empowering to some while being frightening to others, to that ominous transdimensional boarder-crossing scene — but it is remarkable how obtuse all of these metaphors are. Mark did a really nice job of laying out the rules of this universe, including adding some insight into what the Blessing means to the peoples of Earth and Ektae, but Orlando is never so obvious. It’s a-fucking-lot of information, and Jordan’s role as both a first responder and a secret child-of-blessings-past means that the reader gets to form a more or less first-hand impression of this thing. I’ll confess that I was frequently frustrated on my first reader-through, not totally getting what was happening. But what the issue lacks in specific clarity, it more than makes up for in its evocative mess.
And actually, the story snaps into focus when Jordan comes in off the streets and connects to his don’t-call-me-girlfriend, Sid. Mind you, I’m making an assumption about Sid’s gender — Rebelka stubbornly draws a character without typical comic book gender signifiers.
Rebelka tends to draw men with fairly muscly frames — the Sidhan that punched Jordan in the face and Jordan himself are both ripped — but Sid’s more of a mystery. Orlando is so smooth and casual about introducing the concept of Jordan’s two dads that it’s not outside the realm of possibility that he’s similarly dropping us into the middle of a relationship that is either hetero- or homosexual. The scene doesn’t harp on this idea — in fact, there’s very little the issue does “harp” on — but it’s refreshing to have these kinds of questions when their answers aren’t central to the story. Who is Sid? An important person in Jordan’s life that Jordan fucks sometimes. Great: that’s what I need to know.
I’m also intrigued by these spherical iron urns. Mark, I think it’s a great call that they’re going to be used as a weapon in the near near near future, it’s just not clear what Jordan will be wielding them for. The letter from his fathers certainly makes him snap into action, but if he’s driven by anything other than wanting to learn about his past, that information is kept shrouded from the reader. Orlando’s world and Rebelka’s illustrations will keep me coming back to see how the mystery of Jordan’s motivations unfold, but it’s amazing how novel it is that the hook is more atmospheric than it is narrative. And I say that while also acknowledging that the issue ends with a pretty classic cliffhanger: hero held at gun point.
And while I’m on the subject of the atmosphere, I gotta bring up my pet-gripe: made up slang and fake swearwords. Maybe it’s because the words are supposed to be so loaded but lack the cultural context to make them meaningful, but I’ve never been able to get onboard with them. The Marvel 2099 comics famously use “shock” as a “fuck” substitute, in much the same way Battlestar Galactica uses the word “frak.” Even Firefly’s use of “gorram” rubs me the wrong way. Orlando’s got his one for the world of Namesake: “swive.” Best I can tell, it too is a substitute for “fuck.” It’s already tough to understand the Sinhan characters, what with their alien proper nouns and sometimes boorish syntax, the last thing I need to trip over is a swear word that isn’t a swear word.
Oh, and I wanted to address Mark’s shoutout to the election. It is a hell of a thing. As far as I’m concerned, until someone writes a comic book about it — and judging from my twitter feed, I’d give it about a month — Retcon Punch is probably not going to be the best vehicle for any of us to work out our feelings. Personally, I’m not even sure I understand all of my feelings yet, and I’d even go so far as to wager I haven’t felt them all yet. I’m scared, and being something of a weirdo, I don’t always feel that familial connection that Mark described above. I’m thankful for the community we have here — y’all are some insightful motherfuckers that visit this site. I’m glad we can talk about what’s important in art and culture, because I sincerely believe that’s how we can address what’s hurting us so deeply right now.
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?