First Looks at New Vertigo Comics: Dominique Laveau and Saucer Country

Four months ago, DC’s Vertigo imprint launched four new comics. I’m not reading one of them (the Fables spin-off Fairest didn’t interest me, since I don’t read the main title), and New Deadwardians is a mini-series that I’ll review once it ends. (I’ll provide a spoiler, though: You should be checking it out.) The other two are ongoing, so it’s time for my first look reviews. The one I like will receive further reviews down the line. For the other one, this will have to be my final say.

cover to Dominique Laveau: Voodoo Child #1

Dominique Laveau: Voodoo Child

Dominique Laveau: Voodoo Child

(Based on issues #1-4.)

Though Vertigo publishes a wide range of stories, if it had a house style it would be something along the lines of Dominique Laveau: Voodoo Child: An ordinary youth discovers herself suddenly involved in a world of magic. Most Vertigo series also include something about the power of stories, though this instead draws its inspiration from real-world legends. Set in modern-day, post-Katrina New Orleans, the title character is the heir to 19th Century Voodoo queen Marie Laveau. Naturally, there is a power vacuum in the city’s magical society, and competing forces are out to kill or help her.

Selwyn Seyfu Hinds knows and loves the culture that he’s writing about, but the quality of the story doesn’t live up to the New Orleans flavor. The dark, threatening bad guy, the willful pretender to the Voodoo Court’s throne, and the plucky orphan kids could have come from any generic urban fantasy. Dominique herself spends most of the time confused and aimless, and the only reason that her rare story-impacting decisions can’t be called “out of character” is that the first four issues still haven’t established a personality or motivations for her.

The New Orleans angle still has some potential, and the most promising aspect so far has been the power player in the magical circles who also has ties to real Louisiana politicians. However, Denys Cowan’s art does not complement the setting. He’s a good artist with a long history in comics, but his work feels overdramatic and generic for this series. Dominique isn’t portrayed as the innocent newcomer she’s supposed to be, and in general the scenes seem better suited to a shallow guns-blazing adventure than to the subtle machinations of New Orleans that the writing refers to.

Grade: C-

cover to Saucer Country #1

Saucer Country

Saucer Country

(Based on issues #1-4.)

Often, the comics that don’t fit the definition for a “normal” Vertigo series are their most successful. Perhaps this is because the publisher holds these ideas to a higher standard and doesn’t publish the lower quality ones, or perhaps it’s just coincidence. I can’t say that this is because it’s better for comics to avoid cliché, though, because Saucer Country’s entire premise is based on well-known subject matter. It starts with the common ideas of alien abductions, “greys”, and all that goes along with that, and builds a drama out of interesting, believable characters.

This works because author Paul Cornell and artist Ryan Kelly are both great at portraying real people. The premise is that a politician just starting her campaign for president becomes convinced that she’s been abducted by aliens. Between the politics and her (also abducted) ex-husband, there is plenty going on even without aliens getting involved. The characters make up a mix of believers and skeptics, with the most prominent believer winning the reader’s trust by being quirky, scientific, and quick to scoff at the truly crazy people in his community.

It’s too early to know for sure where this is going, though it does seem apparent that something is out there. The nature of the aliens is not going to be known for a while, and there are a lot of interesting ways that someone with the power of the presidency (or the stresses of a presidential campaign) could deal with them. In the meantime, the politics are good, too. This reminds me of Ex Machina in the way that political discussions form a constant background to the main plot. But where that comic seemed overeager to squeeze in clever debate points without having to take sides or letting the conversations reach a natural conclusion, this is handled more naturally here. That’s right: The best comic about American politics is currently being written by an Englishman.

Grade: B

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