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Mercy Thompson: Homecoming
posted August 18, 2009
Patricia Briggs, Francis Tsai, Amelia Woo
Dabel Brothers, hardcover, 112 pages, August 2009, $22.95
This is an almost stridently uninteresting comic book from what I take is a hit series of urban fantasy prose novels. Mercy Thompson can turn into a coyote; this book finds her in an area of what I'm guessing is high-desert Washington looking for a job as a teacher. She runs into the local faerie, vampire and werewolf crowds and gets caught up in a scheme that sounds like something from a Stephen J. Cannell show: hostages, territorial control, face-offs, unwanted protectors. Thompson is the kind of character that actresses of fading box office import demand be written for themselves on cable television series: she's beautiful, she's smart, she's a moral beacon, everyone worthwhile likes her once they get to know her and the world conspires against her in a safe but annoying way, less in a Charles Dickens mode and more like a grumpy dad that won't let his wonderful daughter drive his sports car. Neither the humans nor the non-humans come from a particularly compelling angle on the magical beings just out of sight genre. Mercy interviews with teachers so dead-set on their sports programs I initially thought they were under a magic spell Mercy would spend the rest of the book confronting. One prospective landlady disapproves of Mercy's awesome belly-tat from the starchy confines of an Agatha Harkness dress. The werewolves are growly; the vampires are sexy and dangerous. You know the drill.
I imagine the fans know the drill, too, and maybe they'll be quite delighted with seeing their favorite characters up on their feet and in visual form. For me, an outsider, it was a slog that was made more difficult by what seemed like the inevitability of Mercy's awesomeness saving the day in some manner. Visually the book is a pretty effective middle-1990s type mainstream comics adventure story, what passes for a mid-level offering at Image now. It's clear that working professionals did it, they're just not the kind of professionals whose work I tend to find all that interesting. But it's competent, mostly. There are thankfully only a few moments like one early on where our heroine informs us that her heightened senses are telling her the exact same thing a supporting character just said out loud for no particular reason. As an almost subliminal sign speaking to the nature of the tale being told, there's little detail to the world depicted in Homecoming
-- sometimes literally, with rooms that look like they were dressed by the world's poorest production crew, and sometimes only figuratively, with a lack of original ideas on display. It never stops feeling like a story, and a very specific kind of story like that. I've been to this world, or something like it. I've read this story, or something dangerously close. I've met these characters, or their spiritual cousins. Whether it's in a hundred generic role-playing game adventures or dozens of paperbacks with a list of similar books on the last page or in a new, shiny graphic novel doesn't matter as much as that I begged to be surprised in some way -- any way! -- and came away unsatisfied.