When the President of Pimco says to Tom Keene, host of Bloomberg Radio’s Surveillance, that it’s hard to restore a Triple A rating once it’s been lost, that is exactly too much to hear. Facing up to the idea of America possibly losing its Triple A and not recouping it within even the next generation is hard enough. Facing up to this idea while In the Loop host Betty Liu (the show that just crossed to Surveillance) interviews her guests with a steely resolve makes me want to hide out. There’s an even bigger economic collapse on the way, potentially. And it comes with its own countdown timer, one that marks the days and the hours, minutes and seconds until August second with the debt ceiling needs to be raised again, or…
It’s easy to escape into Gary Phillips’ first foray into comics, The Rinse. Courtesy of BOOM! Studios, The Rinse is a piece of ‘sunshine noir’ (like Ed Burns’ Confidence or the magnificent Rand Ravich-run show Life); there are some seedy characters and some dicey dealmaking, but everything happens in the bright light of day. The story follows the charming, self-assured Jeff Sinclair a professional (if that term can apply) money launderer at the top of his game. Jeff is friendly, liked by all, can access any level of society from Old Money right down backwoods California weed farmers, and the guy with the most flawless system for ‘rinsing’ ill-gotten gains.
Phillips’ storytelling is exegetic, which is to say monologue-driven and explanatory at the outset. But this quickly changes when the narrative drive kicks in near the middle of the book, at which point artist Marc Laming’s clean-line style makes for an engagingly linear read. There’s a strange kind of dual-speed-ism that emerges. The move certainly makes sense. It’s hard enough to provide an engaging visual drama to the endless facts and figures of Jeff’s life; explanatory monologue is certainly the best way around this. During the second act, the sheer linearity Laming’s storytelling is tantalized by there being just enough consolidated focus on Jeff Sinclair himself to make you wonder where the next twist is coming from. So all-in-all, Phillips and Laming have definitely mastered a comics two-step. Deploying their different strengths at different points in the story certainly is to The Rinse’s credit.
At an intellectual level, I’m certain that this teamwork is the hidden strength of the book, and I’m hoping that this perfectly-synchronized word-then-picture approach can be continued during the series. At an emotional level though (and maybe I’m still reeling from the slo-mo horror unfolding on Bloomberg) I’m still looking for a Higher Truth. Remember when Denzel defended his murder of Scott Glenn’s drug-dealer in Training Day? He’d said to Ethan Hawke, “I walk a higher path”, and just in that moment you knew how the movie had to end. That Ethan would destroy Denzel, exposing the violence and corruption of the character, but in a strange twist, would replace him.
Of course this didn’t happen. And pop sensation Macy Gray rather than showcase her acting talent and use Training Day as a genetic launchpad for a secondary career was relegated to the role of crazy psycho junky girlfriend. It wasn’t until Shawn Ryan’s The Shield a few years later that a truer, deeper negotiation of moral turpitude would be espoused.
Guided by intuition as I usually am when preparing for reviews, I’m often left in the wake of my own unconscious. Why would my mind have jumped to Training Day as easily as it did? Was it something about dashed hopes? But maybe Training Day isn’t such a bad move. It is after all, the story of how genius, left unchecked, often ends in villainy, and at its core, the idea that genius must sometimes be caged. Denzel is the outlier that, perhaps once noble, must now be put down. And those ratings agencies on the opposite end of the drama, those who might downgrade America’s Triple A while Boehner, Pelosi and President Obama squabble, might feel every bit justified in needing to rein in the American economy.
This is the Rainmaker’s dilemma; that individual genius is simply rendered irrelevant by greater goings-on. And it is the central conflict of our time, the idea that That Promise of America that everyone from Walt Whitman to Scott Fitzgerald to Bob Dylan to Greil Marcus to Stan Lee once noticed might now be running on empty.
If not exactly in the thematics, then in the story’s mechanism at least (one that slides from monologue-exposition to visualized action), The Rinse seems to capture both this sense of being lost, and of impending loss. For just one buck, it’s worth picking up, even if you’re not that curious about the girl who just wants Jeff to buy her a drink.