The Long Harvest: "Bodies #1"

Long rains make for long harvests.

Bodies #1

Publisher: DC Comics
Length: 26 pages
Writer: Si Spencer, Meghan Hetrick, Dean Ormston,
Price: $3.99
Publication Date: 2014-9

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.


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

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

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

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