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.