by Ryan Desaulniers
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
One of the first things I do when I’m in a budding relationship, the second I have the opportunity, is to scrutinize my potential partner’s bookcase. Admit it: you’ve done this is as well. The idea is that we can glean something about someone’s character based upon the literature or media they consume because a good book, for example, informs a person’s worldview. Also, since art itself is inherently tied to other art, what we’ve seen or read changes the way we encounter or create art. In The Wild Storm 9, Chief Jackie King of IO reports to the big boss, Miles Craven, only to catch him reading a novel, and my brain has yet to stop whirring about what this choice of literature tells us about not only Miles, but writer Warren Ellis as well.
Craven’s light reading is Against the Day by Thomas Pynchon, a sprawling, Byzantine tale taking place between the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and the fallout of World War I. I can’t think of a more apropos choice for Craven who, as the director of IO, sits embroiled in a war of technology similar to that which took place at that time between Tesla and Edison in the War of the Circuits, which pit alternating against direct current for commercial supremacy. In the same way, Craven currently harbors technology stolen directly from his counterparts/rivals of SkyWatch, directly breaking long-standing treaties. Just like in the late 1800’s-early 1900’s, folks are playing dirty for the right to technological supremacy. Surely Craven identifies with an era beleaguered by genius and bleeding-edge tech as he ruthlessly runs his organization by means of theft and assassination. Also, even the manner in which he reads the book is characterful:
During this very important, highest clearance conversation with Jackie, Miles keeps reading for nearly two-thirds of the talk. Ellis and Jon Davis-Hunt do such a good job balancing Miles the callous, egoistic genius with the charming family man who patiently describes the nuances to his husband after a hard day’s work.
But this choice of novel not only speaks to the character, but also the writer; after all, Ellis must have read the novel to know that it fits in this narrative. Where I see Ellis take cues from Against the Day is in his general approach to The Wild Storm‘s characters and how information is given to the readers. A reviewer of Against the Day wrote that “the text exceeds our ability to keep everything in our heads, to take it all in at once. There is too much going on among too many characters in too many places…a simulation of the disorienting overload of modern culture.” Sound familiar? Perhaps it’s just me, but every time I sit down to read this comic, I pull out a little chart I made featuring the three main factions in play on Earth, the different alien races, the big science-y terms essential to the plot, the ensemble of characters and their codenames, and who jumped ship from one organization to another. In short, The Wild Storm is a dense title, but purposefully so, as can be seen in the clarity in writing and art which Drew’s covered (so deftly) in the past issues, and the inclusion of this little bit of intertextual allusion only highlights the level of intentionality going into each page of every issue of this series. Considering that Ellis brings a Pynchon novel into a series which is already, essentially, intertextual with the previous version of this universe, and the feat becomes all the more impressive. And it makes me really want to check out Warren Ellis’ bookcase.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?
Ryan, I’d really like to see that chart.
Also, let’s be real: it’s not just potential partners, I’ve scrutinized the bookshelves and music collections of every person’s home I’ve ever been in
I KNEW it wasn’t just me!
Yeah, I scrutinise every bookshelf I come into contact to as well. Soon as I can