The Contours of Artificiality (the pretentious title for my SPOILER-LOADED Seaguy review)

I was worried about poor ol’ Seaguy for a while. Issue two of Grant Morrison and Cameron Stewart’s three issue mini was absolutely lightening-paced. Action in the sea, tragedy in Atlantis. It seemed so random, so haphazard. I thought that the book would close on a hustled note, another case of too many ideas too quickly, not enough room, the very pages of the book quivering under the strain of the ideas they carried. I was somewhat wrong. But ‘somewhat’ is enough to recommend “Seaguy” as one of my favorite recent miniseries.

So what does ‘somewhat’ mean? Well, issue #3 ends with a caption urging fans to demand a sequel (Morrison has said in interviews that he’d like to produce two future miniseries with the same cast). From what I can gather, Seaguy did pretty well in sales as far as Vertigo minis go, although the absence of recognizable brand characters likely robbed the book of “New X-Men” numbers. A trilogy is not out of the question, I don’t think. I’d be nice, since the current Seaguy saga leaves a ton of room open for future action. But it does so in a careful way, covering its themes quite nicely. It’s a very complete work (with genuine bookend scenes!) that still demands future additions. A tricky balance to manage, but I think Seaguy does it.

At its heart, I saw the book as a commentary on current superhero comics (dominated by non-adventurous interests), with enough depth to hit upon a general complacency in the (American? Western?) public. Certainly the superhero satire in issue #1 is tough to miss, and others have highlighted the good bits better than I can. Needless to say, the contented, aimless superheroes of ‘our world’ are fine with their ‘thrill rides’, which take them only in circles. The young suffer from vague depression, or maybe simple ennui. The war is won, society is great, and there’s no need for the old guard to upset their cushy lives, even with the occasional meteor strike. But it is no longer enough for Mickey Eye (Our Stand-In for every carefully advertised comfort we can name) to cash in on the public, nor maintain their bliss. They want to own the very means of human sustenance, an Ultimate Food, a living organism that can be all three squares, midnight snacks, drinks included. But Xoo would rather live on its own, thanks. Seaguy is a little like Xoo; he wants is to prove himself with a thrilling quest, catching the gal and netting the glory and finding purpose beyond what is provided to him. Both want to live on their own.

Issue #2 begins the real quest. It seemed so random, as I said before. Seaguy and his best pal Chubby storm Mickey Eye’s aquatic stronghold and Xoo eventually sinks the operation in a mad rage. Quick as a flash, Seaguy winds up in the ruins of Atlantis, where long-dead machines (actually another source of sustenance, this time for Atlantis itself; you can‘t control your source of life in this world, it seems, although you can own it) fuck everything up really good. Is it a revelation? An exploration of the dangers of adventuring? It’s a bit more.

Issue #3 takes us to the moon, where the mad Moon Mummy, once the greatest ruler of ancient Atlantis, demonstrates the problems with uncontrolled adventure. This guy actually destroyed his world in pursuit of eternal fame, a real immortality (despite the fact that he also seems to be literally immortal!), and now he needs a hero to help him out with an absurdly stupid, self-absorbed task. The Moon Mummy, in this way, is a type of classic superhero villain, using his power and influence not for justice or the betterment of the world, but for masturbatory ego play. No wonder he’s still after the retired heroes of yore! But Mickey Eye is on the moon too (told ya it’d fit together!), building more amusements, and swiftly erasing all trace of past adventures, in favor of safe, controlled excitement. No large-scale messy operatic conflicts here! The good and bad sides of such old styles are swept away in favor of good exciting neatly packaged fun. They call the Moon Mummy senile, but he understands the loss here. Of course such resistance to modernity is madness to Mickey Eye! They have Death (or some substitute) in their employ! Life and death action provided! Buy a delicious snack when you’re done! Thrills! Classic superhero gear is stupid! Old! And they’ve been watching our hero the whole while.

But what about Seaguy? They get him too in the end. Or do they? No matter what, Seaguy has taken the first step toward changing the stifling order: he had mapped the extent of Mickey Eye. The action on the Moon, and the action on the sea. He knows how far it extends: they can’t pretend to be so benevolent to him anymore. But wait! They wiped his mind, right? An all new pal, right? The book is repeating itself, and the end is the beginning is the end, correct? The Ghost of Chubby urged him to never forget, though. Look at the final page. Seaguy winks at us, and picks opposite color (black) than what he used at the start of the saga (where he only exploited Death‘s color-blindness by using Death‘s black pieces - Seaguy was white). And the sitting positions are reversed now. Death’s face cannot be seen at the end, while Seaguy beams with confidence; in issue #1, we couldn’t see Seaguy’s face, only Death’s relaxed leer. Hey, maybe it means nothing. Maybe Mickey Eye just did a super-swell job of reorienting the young fellow’s mind. Maybe the sequel will come out and Grant will prove me wrong. Even so, there’s another difference on that final page from its bookend at the top of the quest.

No Xoo today.” Xoo is all sold out. And yeah, Mickey Eye now owns the moon, if you’ll look upward. But they can’t own life itself. And now a living pirate foodstuff is on the loose. They’ll ignore it (“Beastly”) of course. But the spirit of life is underneath them now. Under the sea. Seaguy saw the extent of their control, and even if he can’t remember it, he at least affected it, put a crack in the armor. That’s something, enough until the sequel.

Did I mention the book is goddamned hilarious? My favorite bit is in issue #3, in which we suddenly learn that everyone has been speaking Esperanto the whole time. An artificial language, naturally, but one intended to unite the world in common understanding, free from politics and control. All the heroes spoke it. I guess Mickey Eye hasn’t got the language yet either, though I’m sure they’re working on it.  We'll have to wait and see.