Each time I see this particular issue of Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E., I’m drawn back into Sting’s strangest, coolest decade.
I almost want to say:
There are Unless Places.
Places you don’t end up in, Unless. The kinds of places Junior would talk about when it got late enough at night and cold enough, and he was full of enough alcohol. To say that Junior didn’t drink was an outright lie, but one that he was happy stoking the embers of, and one that he’d get away with when he could. Often for the benefit of female companionship, which was a rare enough thing for Junior. He’d claim his mother was a scientist, which she really was, and that she’d been researching the effects of alcohol on a human body and that it was his birth that forced her to resign her job. And that that was why he’d never touch alcohol. But on the nights when all of us needed something to cling to we knew we could get Perry or Bill or maybe even Wink to push Junior just hard enough and just slowly enough that that staunch veneer of the teetotal lifestyle would warble and crack. And that it was then that Junior would begin to drink more seriously and more honestly than the rest of us. It was after, long after, when Junior’s demons would come for him, and he begin to talk about the world and his place in it. And then and only then, that he would even dare mention Unless Places. He talk about these kinds of places in the past in tones that evoked splendor. The Frontier, the Klondike, the Old West. Places where law had little lease, where found themselves standing tall under darkening skies. The kinds of places you don’t get to go to unless something else has already happened to you…
But of course, that’s not the truth at all.
On his best day, Peter Milligan can go round for round with Bob Dylan. And on his very best day, Milligan might even come out ahead.
I guess this is what it looks like when the wheel’s still in spin. Like pieces moving. Maybe one of the smoothest kinds of perpetual fictions were those tales of a certain group of mutants from the ‘90s. By the ‘90s, that team had grown so diverse that the form of storytelling was necessarily predicated on the micro-episodic. The story of each issue became the story of how each sub-group wove its way to its individual objective. Not at all unlike the storytelling in the now-mythic Lord of the Rings movie trilogy.
It’s a quiet tea between friends. The Shade, the erstwhile Richard Swift, and erstwhile Starman Mikaal Thomas take the October air on the Shade’s upper-floor balcony. Below them, the Shade’s garden spreads out, behind them the city towers, threatening to swallow the idyll of gentlemanly sedateness. The measured repose, as well the physical balcony, put the Shade above his past, but the towering spires of Opal City certainly seems to suggest the lurking doubt that he may not yet be beyond the consequences of his earlier deeds.