Jun 15 2010 1:06pm

Greek Street by Peter Milligan

There are several new and on-going speculative comics right now—and one of these is Peter Milligan’s Greek Street. The first trade was released back in March and issue twelve comes out this month. “Blood Calls for Blood,” the first trade collection, is only ten dollars, so I figured what the hell, I’ll check it out. Vertigo is usually a good judge of quality; I’m rarely disappointed by the comics they publish.

Greek Street has an interesting premise: characters from the old stories (Greek, specifically) in modern day Soho. There’s Oedipus, Eddie, and Cassandra, as well as others. The story itself centers around the crime spree being enacted by a reanimated corpse who was put to death by one of the other characters, who seems to spend a great deal of time having his girls-on-the-side murdered.

I expected to like this comic more than I did. The premise has a huge potential for creative storytelling—nothing more fun than playing with inevitable fate and tragic flaw, right?—but the execution leaves me unimpressed. Which is not to say that’s it’s a bad comic; it isn’t. Perhaps Mike Carey’s enthusiastic introduction made me anticipate more narrative heft, I don’t know.

Eddie seems to be the protagonist of this story, and his narration is one of the interesting points. I wish Milligan had been more adventurous with his misspellings, though; after all, this boy is supposed to be so embarrassed by the low quality of his writing that he actually sleeps with his birth mother rather than show her the letter he wrote about her abandoning him. And then he succeeds in killing her by accident. Never let it be said that Oedipus isn’t just as tragic as usual. (I might have found the beginning of the story more rewarding if he hadn’t known it was his mother he was screwing. That’s the punch of the actual Oedipus tale, after all.)

The parts are all there for an intriguing story. The dialogue, which tends to be the most important part of comics writing, is frequently just so-so. It’s not striking or intense, but it’s not bad. It’s just all right. So far I haven’t been terribly keen on the treatment of women in the story, either, but I can’t say if that’s because the narrative gives them no agency or if it’s just because the story is starting with murdered women and the chorus is played by strippers who spend most of their panels flaunting to the reader. (A technique I am not thrilled with, artistically—it feels cheap. The women are drawn in these panels with more attention than anything else in the comic, but the objectification seems unnecessary despite their jobs. I’m specifically thinking of the page where one of the women is getting into her underwear and every shot is of tits or ass in some way, being pushed out and into the faces of the reader, sometimes without even showing her face.) More issues will be necessary before I can make an informed judgment on that. There’s a difference between truthful presentation—mobsters do degrade and humiliate women—and exploitation/titillation using the degradation of women. We’ll see.

The art isn’t winning me over as a whole, really. The colors are lovely but faces frequently lack realism and emotion. Proportions are occasionally flawed and less attention is paid to rendering things like the background than I would like. The women in the “chorus” pages and breasts in general are drawn with loving care, but I’d like to see a little bit more of that anatomical detail and directness with all the figures, not just the nude girls. (And that’s not because I’m a woman—trust me, I like nude girls as much as the straight male comics reader.)

I would still recommend picking it up to see how it goes. There’re still a lot of directions Milligan could take his tale and improvements that might come later. The mystery that’s developing is interesting enough and could prove to be good, not just “okay.” I don’t love this comic, but I don’t hate it, and I’d like to see where it goes next. Cassandra, when it comes to characters, seems like she has a great deal on the coming narrative horizon. We didn’t see much of her in “Blood Calls for Blood” and I want to see if Milligan builds her story more, later. Plus, I love having more creator-owned stuff to read.

So for now, I have no definitive vote about Greek Street—I’ll just have to see where it goes and how much effort Milligan puts into making the trip a good one.

Brit Mandelo is a multi-fandom geek with a special love for comics and queer literature. She can be found on Twitter and Livejournal.

1. t0kengirl
As much as I adore Greek Myth I just couldn't get into this at all. I found myself very detached from the entire story and the artwork really frustrates me as does the treatment of women, although the one character I like is Daedulus partner a (I presume) muslim woman who is so far really cool. I just really wanted to like this and can't help being disappointed by the fact that I can't.
Kate O'Hanlon
2. KateOH
This is pretty much exactly how I felt about Greek Street I had eagerly anticipated it but only ended up picking up the first 3 or 4 issues before dropping it. In fact I only stuck with it after issue one because I was sort of desperately hoping it would get better. It's a great premise but the execution left me cold and though I'm no prude I too found the strippers a bit much.
3. N. Mamatas
I just want to pronounce that title Grsst Strsst.
4. N. Mamatas
Or, for that matter, Grssk Strsst. Never type before lunch, that's my new motto.
Alex Brown
5. AlexBrown
I never read just the first of any comic (unless it's something I'm already familiar with, like, say Buffy, Angel, or Serenity) because it's like watching the first ep of a new series. It's just impossible for me to judge a pilot beyond "huh" or "meh". But that doesn't stop me from watching at least the second ep. By then I figure they've had enough chances to do something or get off the pot.

Or maybe my theory is based on bad examples, but outside, say the Sandman series, Y, Preacher, and Hellboy I have never been hooked from the first issue.
Brit Mandelo
6. BritMandelo
@tokengirl @hvns2btsy

Yeah, I think the discomfort is justified. Side note: I just realized that he turns the Furies into male gangsters instead of leaving them female. Maybe the three girls who are doing necromancy are going to be the "real" Furies, but I'm suddenly more pissed off now that I've realized that.


Yeah, I'll try the second trade when it comes out for this exact reason, but in this case it's less that it didn't grab me and more that it had begun to actively irritate me by the end. I'll try the second trade and see if the irritation develops into disgust or if Milligan cleans up his act a little.
Kate O'Hanlon
7. KateOH
@5 but the first trade is at least 5 or 6 issues. That's half a year if you've been following the monthlies. If a series hasn't gotten my by that point I'm out unless I start to hear some really good buzz about it.

Mike Carey's The Unwritten had me hooked from issue one.
Alex Brown
8. AlexBrown
hvns2btsy @ 7: Yeah, probably shouldn't've used trade there. I was thinking about trades since that is what Brit was writing about. I mean issue. *Going back to edit that now...*
9. Davey B
I agree that like most pop literature Greek Street is kind of overusing objectification of the female form and also less bold about the strengths of its female characters than you'd expect from the writer of Shade.Much like the original tales as I remember.

However, unlike the majority of commentators here, I still adore the book.It's the only monthly I am excited about at the moment.

On the subject of sexism in comics;
I read Y;The Last Man for this first time this year, and despite really enjoying it-I was astounded that one of its central premises is that the world and its industrial base would fall apart without men.Is it me or Vaughan that's bein naive here?

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