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Radical Premiere: The Rising
posted August 19, 2010

imageCreators: E. Max Frye, JP Targete
Publishing Information: Radical Comics, comic book, 28 pages, 2010, $1
Ordering Numbers:

There was a time when my comics reading was as much about extending my exposure to fantasy and science fiction material as it was about quality work or an affinity for the form. When I read work like a recent pile of comics sent to me from Radical, I'm reminded of the days I went right from a screening of Blade Runner to a small pile of Epic magazines in the bureau near the summer bunk beds, setting the alarm for a 4 AM showing of Silent Running on WNDU. I am not psychologically self-aware enough to know if I was escaping from something, or seeking a peak experience through which to help define the world as I experienced it GK Chesterton-style or if I was simply indulging myself in a very specific kind of pleasure like a child that says, "do it again; do it again." What I remember is that the comics were my ace in the hole, my significant advantage over every other kid of my acquaintance obsessed with someplace not here and buying Starlog at the drug store, my near-private producer of other worlds. My friends and I shared Oz and Middle-Earth and Xanth and Star Fleet and Tattooine; the Negative Zone and Rann and Ylum and the Justice League Satellite and Palnu, those were my personal stomping grounds.

I think you'd have to have the undiscriminating appetite of the young teen or the targeted obsession of the adult with resources to burn to appreciate material like that in Radical's The Rising. A soldier in an interplanetary war goes native via the usual boobs and bow and arrow inducements. He's recaptured; the people unlucky enough to adopt him are slaughtered. Our hero happens to be the brother of someone high up in earth's power structure, although this is more announced than explained. We leave him in a fairly ungraceful way -- it feels like the creators ran out of pages -- in the midst of a slightly Cool Hand Luke-style encounter with a corrupt penal/rehabilitation system.

Every adjective and noun in the last half-dozen sentences should be familiar to even the casual space fantasy fan. The Rising is a hash of clichés made from stale ingredients, many canned, which gets presented as if it were cutting-edge cuisine. That individual moments are pretty, that there's a charge for some in getting to walk through the familiar paces of an old-fashioned story, that there's a degree of fun in a reading strategy this kind of material where you can focus in on subtle alterations given tried and true plot progressions like, the way you might with opera or kabuki or Shakespeare or the latest CW masterpiece, all of that is hard to deny. None of this makes The Rising worth the effort. You have to dial long-distance to reach the land of original ideas from its pages, and nothing about it promises you'll budge from that location any time soon. That this is an unsatisfying portion of story may be good news: we don't yet know after reading this sneak-peek issue what the full concept might be, and there's a chance that the last 20 percent of the narrative may be stuffed with fascinating elements. I doubt it, but it could happen. I suspect I've had enough universes at my fingertips in a long lifetime looking skyward that I don't need to add the one represented here.