Thursday, November 05, 2009

Chicoan's graphic novel asks tough questions


Graphic novels are comic books for grown-ups. Full length, immersive, complex, they meld a particular (or peculiar) illustrative style with words that take on the big issues of life. Thus it is with "Spirit Armageddon" ($20.95 in paperback from by Zacheas Hertz, the pen name of twenty-year-old Chico writer Travis Henderson. Coupled with the manga-influenced design and black-and-white illustration of Serpentwitch, the story is the first in a planned series exploring a terrible human paradox: Is it the case that one must become violent to stop violence?

Henderson writes in a news release that he is a civilian pilot, recently enlisted in the Air Force, whose "true calling is with flight, but I find my pen has the strange ability to fly over paper" as well. "In both endeavors I lose myself to the awe and wonder of the grand scheme." The author will be signing copies of "Spirit Armageddon" at Lyon Books in Chico on Thursday, November 19 from 6:00 - 8:00 p.m. as part of the bookstore's gathering of local writers, dozens of whom will be honored at the store through early December.

Zacheas imagines an earth in which falling asteroids are having a strange effect. As one character explains, "Random people from all over the world have been gaining powers. . . . The power we receive has an unfortunate side effect in many people, insanity fed by their own hate, fear, greed or what is most commonly called evil."

These "medians" ("it is what the media called the first ones and the name kinda stuck") wreak violence everywhere, and the government's Armageddon Project must stop it. Some medians can be rehabilitated, relocated, but others must be killed. "No therapist can fix them, no jail can hold them, all we have left is to consider the well being of the people around them." And so young Mino, herself imbued with the asteroid's powers, despised by others from her childhood, must now consider saving the very people who hate her.

There are lighter moments in the story, but many panels depict stylized violence, and the sounds--zziing, dharr, sett, sett, sett, srakh--rattle in the reader's head as power confronts power. The final question continues to resonate: "What have we all gotten ourselves into?"

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