Polter-Cow (spectralbovine) wrote,

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From Aleph to Zero

With the recent news that another television adaptation of Global Frequency, by Warren Ellis, was in the works, I was itching to finally read the comic, and the lovely Shir got me the two trades—among other things—for Christmas!

The Global Frequency is a semi-covert worldwide rescue organization. A thousand people are on the Frequency, and you are on the Frequency because you have a specific skill that can be useful. When you get a call, lives hang in the balance, and only you can help save them.

Global Frequency is an interesting series because it comprises twelve completely stand-alone issues. There is no overarching plot arc, no character development, no continuity. With the exception of Miranda Zero, head of the organization, and Aleph, who connects everyone on the Frequency and manages a hellish amount of data transfer, everyone in each issue is a one-shot character. Miranda Zero and Aleph are both badass women, so that's a good time, but I was impressed that Ellis was able to make the one-shot characters interesting and real in such a limited time. He can get you attached to a character and then kill him off at the end since you know he won't be back in the next issue anyway, but it still kinda hurts!

The structure of the issues was unlike anything I'd read. How do you fit a completely different mini-action movie into twenty some-odd pages every month? Well, you abandon traditional narrative structure and just start with the rising action and end with the climax. Fuck the denouement. Throw the exposition in with the rising action; we don't have time for this shit, MILLIONS OF PEOPLE ARE GOING TO DIE. Each issue is a page-turner because it begins in tension and remains there until the very end. I loved how on the last page of each issue, the credits roll, and it almost feels like it's too early, but all you need to know by the very last panel is that the Frequency have saved the day and the crisis is averted. Sometimes you see the aftermath and get a little closer, but very often the final panel is just the bad guy getting killed, boom, good guys win, the end. Punchline. (Ellis does make sure to pepper each issue with bits of humor.)

Another neat aspect of the series is that each issue is illustrated by a different artist. It was cool to see different interpretations of Miranda Zero and Aleph as well as to see how each artist's style worked with the specific story being told.

There's not a bad issue in the bunch, although a couple are weaker than the others, and no two issues are alike. Sometimes the entire issue is concerned with just getting to the crisis because that's the hard part. Some issues are more contemplative. Some issues fall under action, some under horror, some under psychological thriller, some under science fiction (and when I say "some" I may mean just one...there are only twelve issues, after all). One is just an extended fight scene.

I love the very idea of the Global Frequency, and Ellis takes great care to stay true to the global nature of his tale. Even when the main character is in America, you can see characters from all around the world providing valuable assistance. I wish there had been more done with ordinary people—like the British Indian woman skilled in parkour—rather than so many stories with ex-military or ex-spies who, yes, clearly have a lot of valuable skills and are good for shooting people and blowing shit up but make it seem like the Frequency is only for people who are already incredibly awesome.

Global Frequency is a great comic, and it would make a totally sweet television series, so if it does hit the small screen, I hope it can in any way live up to John Rogers' 2005 pilot. Regardless, the comic will still be here for you to read and enjoy, so I highly recommend you do so. As of now, you are all on the Global Frequency.
Tags: books, comics

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