The Long Harvest: “Bodies #1”

[5 August 2014]

By Gregory L. Reece

This body is covered in wounds, abrasions and scratches, like Jesus taken down from the cross. Is it broken for us? The ground is soaked with blood.  Criminal motivations are everywhere: Islamaphobia, homophobia, bigotry, madness.

This London is not timeless. It is forever incarnated in its past, present, future. It is contemporary, Victorian, post-apocalyptic, noir. One detective wears a hijab, another a bowler; one wears a fedora, another a dragon.

Past, present or future, the evidence is the same, the body is the same. Violence is timeless; death, timeless; pain, timeless.

It is a strange story that Si Spencer introduces in Bodies #1. The tale is organized and structured, but it is still very strange. Six pages by artist Meghan Hetrick tell of the body found in London today; six pages by artist Dean Ormston tell of the body found in Victorian England; six pages by artist Tula Lotay show us where the body is yet to be; six pages by Phil Winslade return us, not quite so far this time, into the body’s past, into a world at war. The artists match the feel of the times; their work embodies London present, London future, London past. They allow Spencer’s written corpus to take on flesh, like the Word itself.

In 2014, Shara Hasan is the detective; she laughs along with her partner when he attempts humor at the expense of her religion; London is blue and brown. In 1890, Inspector Hillinghead is on the job, his rose-tinted glasses the only color in a London of gray and black. Fast-forward to 2050 and Maplewood, armed with bow and arrow, is investigating the crime in a future London, a city broken, a city mad. In 1940, Inspector Weissman commits one crime before he investigates another, another that bleeds into his own, the two becoming one and repeating forever and ever, Amen.

The body arrives unannounced and unexpected in the middle of a London street. The crime is long past; the body is in decay; the evidence, like the corpse, is cold. This body is like countless bodies that have been found buried under leaves in the woods just out of town, found covered by quickly-poured cement under someone’s driveway, found stuffed in the trunk of a car, found washed ashore on the banks of a river or on a sandy beach. This corpse washes ashore in all of these Londons, washes ashore in the middle of the city, as if from Charles Fort’s Super Saragossa Sea.

It is hard to know where Bodies is going based on this first issue alone. It is good to be left wondering, to be as confused as a London detective on a dark city street. It is a story to be told over eight issues, each issue with four artists. It is a story, then, with 32 parts, like the parts of a body, found dismembered in an icebox, each limb carefully wrapped in wax paper, stuffed inside a black garbage bag, bound tight with duct tape. Spencer, if this works, will be a literary Dr. Frankenstein, stitching together and giving life to this broken thing. Lazarus, come forth!

There is violence in Si Spencer’s corpus, violence and sex and bigotry and mystery and ugliness. There are bodies. One is dead. The others are crashing into each other in bloody street brawls; they are flirting with one another and seeking companionship in dark alleys; they are conspiring with one another in secret chambers; they are providing shelter and concern, even for the unknown dead they find in their midst; they are torturing and killing; they are doing all the things that human bodies do.

It is a mystery, this Bodies. It is a mystery, like all bodies are mysteries, like the written word, like crimes and criminals, like the body of Christ, and like bodies, real bodies: bodies alive and dead, warm and cold, broken and whole, male and female, gay and straight, Protestant and Catholic, Muslim and Christian, future and past, past and present.

“It’s been a long rain in the East End of late,” Spencer’s 1940 cigar-smoking detective observes, “but long rains make for long harvests.”

And this makes me think: is this our harvest, then?  These bodies in the street? These bodies falling from the sky to crash into the Ukrainian country-side? These bodies piling up in the Holy Land? These bodies plagued with poverty-driven disease?

Don’t we understand that bodies are all that we have, yours and mine? Don’t we know that we are all the same? Don’t we know that when one bleeds we all bleed, when one dies we all die? Don’t we know that we are all one body, broken and scarred?

This is my body . . . these are our bodies . . . the harvest will be long.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/184335-bodies-1/