Thee Comic Column #7: Saucer Country


Now, it might be that at the time Saucer Country #1 came out I was knee deep in re-reading (and finally finishing) Daniel Pinchbeck’s 2007 book 2012: The Return of Quetzacoatal which, in spite of the slightly misleading title*, has quite a bit more to do with UFOs and the crop circle phenomenon than it does hype over the impending ‘Cosmic Awakening/End of the World’ being touted in many circles. Reading documented cases of amazing crop circle discovery/research wet my appetite for the kind of story Paul Cornell and Ryan Kelly are telling in their thought-provoking new title for DC’s Vertigo imprint.

Saucer Country was one of the ‘new Vertigo’ releases the imprint pimped about six months ago, along with The New Deadwardians and Dominique Laveau: Voodoo Child (I believe Fairest also launched at the same time, but in my book that one doesn’t count as ‘new’ Vertigo as it’s a spin-off of their current flagship title, Fables). In my ever-expanding stack of comics each month I’ve had to adopt a somewhat stringent criteria for trying out new stuff (my wife would laugh at that) – I call it “I simply cannot buy everything.” However as I said Saucer Country struck my interest with its subject matter and of course the writing skills of Paul Cornell, whose Knight and Squire mini-series last year I simply cannot say enough good things about. I picked up the first issue of Cornell’s new book and have been hooked ever since.

Saucer Country reminds me a bit of Brian K. Vaughn’s brilliant Ex Machina, in that it follows an elected official with a history that is anything but what an elected official would want. In the case of the Govenor of New Mexico and soon-to-be presidential candidate Arcadia Alvarado, the secret in her past is that she was apparently abducted by aliens. As memories of the trauma begin to surface they bring with them many complications for Gov. Alvarado’s sanity and political career.

For one thing there’s the matter of her violently unstable ex-husband who suddenly poses a threat to both her and her career because -as we learn – he was with her at the time of the abduction and is having a much harder time coping with the experience as it slowly re-congeals with his everyday reality. Then there’s the right-wing radio personality bent on exposing her as a quack and his ‘mole’ inside her camp.

Never a good thing.

Cornell has a nice devil’s advocate story device here in Alvarado’s right hand man Harry and Chloe, the consulting Republican Strategist they’ve brought in – both of who, after being brought up to speed on the fact that not only does Gov. Alvarado believe she was abducted by aliens but also that those same aliens are invading our planet,  have to help her A) decode her memories fast enough to thwart whatever the visitors may have in store for us, and B) keep the Governor from making herself into a laughable historical footnote.

And then there’s Professor Kidd, recently fired from Harvard for publishing books about UFOs the ex-professor seems down on his luck until  the small Adam and Eve-like couple who refer to themselves as The Pioneer 10 Couple and appear in ghostly form in places such as urinals and desk drawers stop by to let him know he is about to become Gov. Alvarado’s staff consultant on his area of expertise. Well, it doesn’t happen exactly like that, but you’ll see…

If all of this sounds bizarre you’d better believe that it is, but in a wonderfully compelling way that makes me eager to not only read the next issue but also do a little sneaking around online after each issue, brushing up on some of the amazing, startling and often ridiculous UFO lore that peaked in the mid 90’s and then just kinda disappeared from the popular vernacular like… well, like someone was trying to cover it up. Ryan Kelly does a great job mixing dream sequence and hallucination logic in with the ‘real world’ in a way that makes the reader feel much like the character experiencing said cerebral phenomenon must feel – sometimes unable to tell where one starts and the other stops. There’s an interesting mixing of rabbits and aliens he performs in issues 2 and 3 that really creeped me out. No gore, just a general sense of unsettling things moving around in the peripheral. And there’s something about his men in black. I feel as though I’ve seen them somewhere before…

Alright, it’s 8:40 PM as I write this and I’ve a 4:30 AM wake-up call. I’m nowhere near a proper pint but I’ve got a couple of Sierra Nevadas chilling in the fridge and some chips left over from dinner so it’s back to biding my time until Saucer Country #8 hits the stands on October 17th!

Until next Friday, cheers!


* Misleading because to anyone who isn’t familiar with Mr. Pinchbeck’s work it would seem as though the book was one of MANY books to come out between 2007-2010 about the impending, ahem, 2012 Mayan Hullabaloo. IF one wants to read anything intelligent about said subject might I be so bold as to say just cut to the chase and read Terence and Dennis McKenna’s 1975 The Invisible Landscape. Let me also forewarn you to brush up on your chemistry and quantum physics before doing so.

Shawn C Baker

Shawn C Baker

Shawn lives in Los Angeles where he co-hosts Drinking w/ Comics, writes screenplays and fiction and has been known to drink quite a bit of beer. Good beer.

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