The Girl in the Evening Gown: Top Shelf's 'Homeland Directive'

Hand-Me-Down: Critical the engaging plot Robert Venditti offers with Homeland Directive is the traces of information we unwittingly leave behind everyday.

In exploring the nature of the relation between the individual, society and the state, one would anticipate Venditti's Homeland Directive to elevate both the thriller genre and the comics medium. Venditti delivers admirably on both counts. It is a secret joy however, that he also manages to elevate the reader.

The Homeland Directive

Publisher: Top Shelf
Length: 144 pages
Writer: Robert Venditti
Contributors: Mike Huddleston (artist)
Publication Date: 2011-05

It really just comes down to her coat.

It's hard not to be lured back into the Bourne Identity. Not the 2002 movie where Matt Damon escapes the US Embassy in Switzerland (escapes a US Embassy!, what a statement for a post-911 world) by craftily clinging by his fingertips while plummeting downwards in a bid to out-drop US Marines. And not the original novel either. Slick as it was, Ludlum's original novel wrestles with the same dilemma that Hitchcock's Mr. & Mrs. Smith or his Marnie for that matter which has to do with the erasing of moral functionality that comes with the loss of identity.

Reading Ludlum's original novel, it's easy to feel left out to sea, an astonished onlooker while The Patient (Ludlum's identity-free phraseology for Bourne just post his rescue by the Mediterranean fishing trawler and just prior to his discovering his retrograde amnesia), cavorts through Europe shooting, stabbing and thieving away.

Instead the staging area to Robert Venditti's superb Homeland Directive, the one Bourne Identity that vectors you in neatly, is the 1988 ABC movie version starring Richard Chamberlain fresh off the set of Thornbirds. The ABC movie remained faithful to the original novel in a way that Paul Greengrass' sublime reimagining in 2002 did not. And in doing so, Richard Chamberlain reenacts the scene where Bourne saves Canadian economist Dr. Marie St. Jacques (she's a Canadian government employee in the novel and the 1988 film rather than a post-national European traveler).

It's slightly more complicated than that. The (by this time) affably amoral Jason Bourne needs to escape pursuers who have tracked him back to his hotel where an international economics symposium is being held. To elude his trackers, Bourne ducks into the event and kidnaps Marie St. Jacques. With her in arm, Bourne's escape goes smoothly until he hits the parking lot. In a fearsome statement of 1980-level military technology, the assassins train their laser-guided precision sniper rifles on Bourne and Marie. But how did the observation unit assassins know to target Bourne and Marie?

It really just comes down to her coat. Bourne had neglected to pick up Marie's coat from check-in and in the long, cold dark of a Fall evening in Switzerland, a woman in nothing more than a bright-red evening gown stands out. It was that splash of color. That red-on-black. That tactic of self-branding that always lay at the heart of Ludlum's novel for me. A theme carried forward from the profound Osterman Weekend wherein Ludlum predicts reality television.

Art from the forthcoming 'Homeland Directive'

Homeland Directive will offer you an invitation into the same uncharted waters of human identity and bureaucracy, of meaning-versus-value of human lives. The story of CDC researcher Dr. Laura Regan who finds herself the subject of a false flag operation that might have as its sole objective killing her, Homeland Directive is a Great and Powerful meditation on why personhood ought to be prized above politics. And Homeland Directive will simply draw you in.

Sean Konot's lettering is small and compact. It will push you into that sense of claustrophobia that decorates the best of espionage thrillers; AMC's recent Rubicon and the BBC's classic drama Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. And that sense carries through with Mike Huddleston's lavish artwork. Cars crush up as they race by, CSI-style lighting spills over every page. And in a magnificent example of intertextuality, Laura's evening gown shifts color from red to black, as a more somber tone begins to take hold in the story.

But the true centerpiece is Robert Venditti's story and it's execution. What's at stake here is the post-surveillance society. Post-surveillance, which includes the self-actuated surveillance that comes with social media. If anything, Robert has already explored the ramifications of transgressive persistent identity in his earlier works, The Surrogates and its sequel The Surrogates: Flesh & Bone. But what comes after Facebook? Robert has a few ideas, but you won't simply be reading them in Homeland Directive, you'll be experiencing them.

In exploring the nature of the relation between the individual, society and the state, one would anticipate Venditti's Homeland Directive to elevate both the thriller genre and the comics medium. Venditti delivers admirably on both counts. It is a secret joy however, that he also manages to elevate the reader.


Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.