Posted by: Graeme McMillan on April 24, 2007
There’s something really kind of sad about GOD SAVE THE QUEEN, the new Vertigo graphic novel by Mike Carey and John Bolton. Not necessarily in the content of the book itself, although it’s hardly the greatest thing that you’ll read this year – or even this week, arguably – but just the fact that it’s being published at all in 2007. For anyone who’s read almost any Vertigo in the past – especially any high-profile Vertigo – then this book seems like nothing so much as the comic book equivalent of a Vertigo tribute cover band. The plot is just a mash-up of old Vertigo series (Look, the main character is a mix of Fairy and human, just like Tim Hunter from Books of Magic! But she’s a rebel who doesn’t conform, and has a well-meaning teacher try and reach out to her just like Dane from the Invisibles! And there’re Titania and Puck, just like in Sandman!) with Carey bringing nothing new to the mix whatsoever. The plot moves along in exactly the direction you assume that it will, with dialogue that rings hollow and as if the characters exist in service to the plot instead of having a life of their own. The art, meanwhile, is a lifeless glossy mix of photoreference and Bolton’s obvious-and-slightly-creepy love for his main model’s body (which, considering she’s meant to be a teenager, is really kind of disconcerting). This is a book that would’ve seemed cliched had Vertigo published it ten years ago, so I’m not entirely sure why it seemed like a good idea now.
Actually, forget I said that; this is clearly a grab for the fantasy dollar (and, in particular, the Sandman dollar; the press release that accompanied this – because, yes, I got this as a preview copy from DC themselves – begins with a pullquote by Neil Gaiman, and the back-cover copy states that the book “echoes the epic scope of The Books of Magic and The Sandman.” Mind you, the back-cover also claims that Bolton’s art “perfectly captures …the lurid underbelly of modern London,” even though there’s nothing particularly lurid about the art, and especially nothing that suggests any specific place never mind London, so perhaps YMMV, as they say), but it’s such a non-inventive one, literally retreading old ground and trying to recreate old glories, that it leaves a nasty taste in my mouth. Never mind that Vertigo has, for better or worse, kind of moved past its Sandman-corpse-fucking days (with the obvious exception of Fables, although Fables is, unlike this book, good. Mind you, wasn’t the Fables anthology the last hardcover OGN that Vertigo pushed out…?) and yet this book reaffirms all the stereotypes and cliches about the imprint – What made Sandman so good when it started was that there wasn’t really anything else like it available. It had a sense of identity and uniqueness – a reason to exist – that this entirely lacks. As melodramatic as it sounds, a book like this doesn’t just rip-off Sandman, it’s almost disrespectful to the series in doing so.
(Yes, I know; disrespectful to a comic book. What can I say? It annoyed me.)
And that’s before you’ve even got me started on the Sex Pistols riff in the title (Justified by the dialogue in the book from our heroic rebel: “God save the Queen. And her fascist regime. I mean, this was my Dad’s music, this wasn’t cool. It was beyond cool. And it was all mixed up in my head with memories of him. A thousand, thousand lullabies.”), even though the ultimate message of this book – Just say no, and love your parents – is the safe alternative that punk was pushing against, or the fact that, weirdly, the cover art is just two panels from inside the book with some nice design to try and disguise the fact; was the book late for deadline, or did John Bolton decide that he couldn’t be bothered doing any more paintings for the project…?
It’s a Crap book, and not worth the $19.99 that they’re asking for it. If you have that money in your pocket and you haven’t read Sandman, The Invisibles or any earlier Vertigo, you should pick up one of those books instead.