Friday, August 29, 2014

The Pull List: Mind the Gap

Via Inside Pulse
This was one of those comics that I just happened to really get into based solely upon the cover of the first trade paperback I saw. I was amazed that the quality of art by Rodin Esquejo (colored by Sonia Oback) continued onto the actual pages, because I've found that this is not necessarily true of all publications (sigh She-Hulk sigh). And the story, written by Jim McCann? Oh, hell, yes. I love me a good mystery, and when you throw in some paranormal hijinks, I am so there.

Mild spoilers ahead, just as a basic warning for anyone who'd rather go into the comic blind (it's been out since 2012, so I feel no need to censor myself).
See what I mean about beautiful art??
Via Full Page Bleed
To give you a rundown of the comic, Ellis "Elle" Peterssen is in a coma after an apparent attack on the subway, and now her spirit can jump in and out of people's bodies, given that they are also in comas but are, Sixth-Sense-style, unable to fully cross over until their unfinished business is resolved. Of course, with her abilities, Elle can assist them in this, leading to some pretty creepy imagery of translucent people reaching out to her and begging for help, but she has other things she has to worry about. She is trying to figure out how she got into this situation in the first place, piecing together what few memories she does have and occasionally contacting her closest friend, Jo, through the bodies she does end up possessing. In the astral plane, called the Garden, Elle meets Bobby, a British dude presumably also in a coma, who introduces her to this new world in which she resides. With Bobby's (and her former psychiatrist's - don't ask, just read the comic) guidance, her powers grow exponentially and at a fascinating pace; in the first issue, she is unable to even speak and doesn't know her own name, but by #10, she can summon another spirit into her otherworldly abode with only her mind (and a witty phrase). Then a few issues later, she can shatter herself to possess multiple targets (which is probably one of the coolest sequences I've ever seen). She also realizes that she cannot stay in the body of another for too long before her own identity, which is sketchy at best, anyway, begins to dissolve and be replaced by the other person's.

In addition to Elle's out-of-body experience, we're introduced to a fairly large cast of people: Elle's parents, brother, and friends, like the above-mentioned Jo and Dane, Elle's boyfriend (ex?), the hospital staff, and a few assorted characters, such as Red and Dane's father, Lonnie. They're all twisted into the mystery that is Elle's alleged attack, with only some of them aware of it, and that's really what hooked me into the series. By the time I finished the third trade paperback, I wanted to go back and read the other two again to see if I'd missed something, since I get a very Memento feel from the images: is the Bee Girl from the Blind Melon video for "No Rain" important to the narrative? Why is it that music brings Elle the ability to speak? Does Jo's dream catcher come to play? How long has Bobby been in the Garden? And Elle has been here before, but why?? What is Jairus actually for? SO. MANY. QUESTIONS.

This series is probably one of my favorites right now, enough that I bug my boss on a nearly daily basis to see if she knows anything about the next release*. If anyone asks about a good book to read, I'll talk up the exquisite artwork and describe how the complex story is expertly revealed and then just shove a copy of the first volume of issues into their hands, dragging them to the register if needs be. My only real complaint, other than the length of time between issues, is that it can be confusing when you first start reading: who is what now and why are they doing that and wait, when did that happen? It's just a drawback to having such a large number of characters, some of whom look similar (I kept confusing Frankie and Elle's brother for the first bit). The comic is at its best, both art-wise and script-wise, when it's only dealing with Elle in the Garden, but as the series has progressed, these issues are smoothing themselves out, partly because we, the readers, are fully immersed in the world. Plus, the supporting characters - like Dr. Geller, who is my personal fave** - are getting fully fleshed out, even if their roles in the greater narrative are a bit convenient.

Given the long-standing discontent from women comic readers, it amazes me that it has gotten so little press, similarly to Genius from Top Cow. It's not the same issue, I know, but it just shows that comics have a long way to go before they can truly be considered a respected art form (although this has changed significantly over the past few decades). And considering the subject matter, I would think that more women would be flocking to Mind the Gap. Elle's search for herself is far more important than her romance with Dane, and it is her friendship with Jo that gives her strength. Geller, a married lesbian doctor, is proving to be more competent and intelligent than her main medical rival, Dr. Hammond, and Min, Elle's mother, is a major player in the Peterssen family, aware of things that her husband is not. The male characters aren't backdrops, either, but they are significantly less powerful than the women, in more ways than one. Their own actions are often reactions to that of a female character, and many times, all they can do is stare in wonder as the women do what they do: Bobby is amazed at Elle's growing powers, and Dane cannot connect to Spirit-Elle on the physical plane as Jo can. It actually reminds me of Orphan Black in this way, where the women are active participants in their lives and choices, whereas the men can only observe, even when they want to do more.

So basically, if you haven't started reading Mind the Gap, you really, really should, especially if you like a little bit of X-Files mixed in with Buffy, Supernatural, and a smattering of political intrigue, a la Game of Thrones. I probably won't be buying the next issue, but that's because I've already put my $15 away for when they publish the trade collection of issues #16 - #20. Granted, I always have the ability to read the issue for free on my lunch break, but hey, that's one of the perks of working at a comic store.

* The last issue was published all the way back in May, and it looks lie #18 will finally be out on September 17. I found that out for myself, though, by using my powers gifted from The Google.
** I love the dynamic between Geller and her wife, Detective Wallace. They're playful and obviously attracted to each other, physically and emotionally, as shown by the first interaction we see (Wallace: Do you kiss your wife with that mouth? Geller: She likes it.). I cannot tell you how much I crave for positive portrayals of stable marriages in comics - and most media, for that matter. Everyone seems to have this idea that the audience will lose interest in the story and/or the characters unless there's this will-they-or-won't-they rollercoaster with obstacles that just keep getting more and more ludicrous that you start to believe that, you know what, maybe these two crazy kids just shouldn't be with each other. For me, I am more interested in the story of after they get together.
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