“THE KILLING FLOOR?”
As I was setting myself up to read Murder #1, the doorbell rang. The anonymous human being Uber Eats had tasked to pick up my dinner for me was at the front door. Inside the Saint Seiya-like cloth bag he had to carry on his back in order to appease his lazy overlords, there was a hot dog – MY hot dog. A double-sausaged one, to boot. That meant I was about to gulp double the rat tails, raccoon feet, pigeon feet, and recycled shoe parts artificially flavored as pig any sane doctor would allow. After the courier took a look of utter disgust at me and said my name out loud in order to confirm I was supposed to be the person represented by my profile picture, I took my dinner from his hands, giving him a half-assed smile and a slurred “thanks much” as his only tip. I then went right back to the work station to read Murder.
*Alanis_Morrisette-Ironic.mp3 begins playing*
And so, at the same time I was gazing at a very on-the-nose cover that features a feral cow attacking what I assume to be a butcher about to bludgeon a cow to death with a bloody mallet, I was munching down on a substance that may or may not be legally considered meat – depending on your country. And I was thoroughly enjoying both activities. The artwork before my eyes was as exquisite as the flavor of my dinner was superb.
The irony was not felt by me at the time.
In hindsight, I might’ve not been the ideal person to review a pro-animal rights comic book. And yet, here we are.
“Don’t let the name fool you. It’s really more of a grate that lets the juices sluice through!”
Not that it counts for much, but in my defense, I did not know what I was getting myself into when I requested a comic book called Murder as my next review assignment. Given how all the good comic book titles were taken in the 1960’s and creators and readers alike have to trudge inside an ocean of one-word monikers that have a 50/50 chance of actually reflecting what happens on the actual story, this one could have been about the coming of age story of a sixteen-year old Mexican boy after a cartel of extraterrestrial fish threaten to destroy his city. And that isn’t even as farfetched as it can get, and you know it.
But, alas, this was not the case. The people behind it were, if not clever, clear and concise with their choice. This one is called Murder as in “Meat Is Murder”. How bad would it look if I admitted I made that connection shy of six pages in, when the hot dog rested not on my hands or mouth, but deep in the void known as my stomach?
With my eating habits now in the open, I have clearly defined myself as many things – most of them disgusting – but the one that is relevant for this review is “definitely not the target audience for Murder #1”. This will obviously segue into me writing words upon words upon words where I dismiss this entire comic book for being propaganda or stupid or misguided or whatever other negative review buzzword I could conjure.
I like meat. I do. Like, really really like meat. Like “if I don’t have animal produce at least once a week I get upset” kind of liking meat. And, while I doubt that a comic book will succeed in changing my mind where explicit YouTube videos and graphic meat space experiences have failed, that does not mean I will instantly write off an honest intent to get the pro-animal’s right message to the masses as “crap”. Because if there’s something that I enjoy more than tearing through broiled animal muscles between my teeth, that’s a good story. And Murder #1 is a good story. A great story, even.
Now, stall the clapping and backpatting for a second there. I said it was a great story. Great. That is not how you spell the word perfect, as you may have noticed.
It has its peaking peaks. For starters, one of the single best features of this comic book is a teeny tiny QR code in its very first page that transports us to a Spotify playlist that we are meant to listen to while reading. I mean, yes, I am aware this is not strictly speaking something new, but it’s one of those little details that lets you know there was actual care behind the project. And, at four tracks long, the playlist is but utterly unobtrusive. Ergo, ten kudos points to whatever Hogwarts house the person that came up with this belongs to.
And now, for our feature presentation.
Our story begins with a caption reading “two years from now”. While being a very common and overused trope that writers of every language and nationality will drop on us in order to “start the story right in the middle of action”, it could be a telltale sign that the actual beginning of our story will be long and, possibly, drawn out. But, before your mind arrives to this very logical conclusion, a smoke bomb goes off inside the lobby of a powerful meat-based corporation’s building. Suddenly, a dude going by the name of The Butcher’s Butcher kicks his way into the CEO’s office. A few panels later, we are treated to a sight that is beyond heavy metal: a cow killing said president while reminiscing of the mother this corporation slaughtered in order to make a couple hamburgers out of her dead body.
At this point, my eyelids had been fully pulled back. I had been reeled in.
“Don’t kid yourself Jimmy, if a cow ever got the chance he’d eat you and everyone you cared about!”
But this is when someone hit the proverbial brake.
What follows is something that will either pull at the audience’s heart strings hard enough to make even a millennial tear up, especially if it’s one that believes little defenseless chicks are cute, or bring back a floodgate of bad memories if you, as me, have been unlucky enough to watch Baraka. And, amidst this graphical demonstration of the artistical prowess of Emiliano Correa, we are introduced to our main protagonist. I think? At least I believe so, as herein lies one of Murder #1’s greatest sins. The crew is so invested in being as graphic as possible in regards to how much it sucks to slay actual living things for human nourishment – and they’re damn good at the visual representation -, that it sorts of forgets to have any semblance of character development.
After reading this whole issue, your brain will be etched with disfigured illustrations explaining in high detail exactly how animals are dismembered in order to let you have that cheaply-made chicken nugget you’ll eat tonight, but are you able to describe who Justin is? Because I’ve read this thing two times and I am unable to answer my own question. All I know is he is called Bitch Justin for some reason, and he’s cool with that?
Other than that, there’s the revelation that he’s apparently able to telepathically understand and communicate with animals. *insert reference to popular Nickelodeon TV show here*. At least that’s what the synopsis in the back cover told me. There’s something about every species starting to be connected telepathically with each other as well. But, do you see this happen in the book? Only if we can assume Garfield strips have been doing this exact same thing all these years without us noticing, because it is portrayed exactly as the “interactions” between John and Garfield have been for decades.
But, I mean, it’s not like this little detail is key to understanding the mythos of the universe presented to us in this series. It’s not like this was one of the defining features that helped this comic book be successfully funded on Kickstarter. It’s not like it would be very important to make this itty-bitty piece of information clearly elucidated inside the pages of this book. It’s not like that was the premise of the series from the start.
“When I grow up, I’m going to Bovine university.”
I, however, cannot use this as a weapon to take this comic book down more than half a peg – three quarters at most. The telepathic connection is hinted at ever so slightly, if anything, and it is spoiled on the official synopsis, after all. I can only suppose the writers were trying to go for the path of the “wait, is what I think is happening actually happening?” rather than the tried and trued “I understand every single detail of this story because it has been spelled out for me” format of story structure.
I don’t think that gamble works particularly works in their favor, especially when it comes to a first issue, but it makes a couple of intriguing questions bloom inside your mind, chief among them “Who is this person?”, “Why is any of this happening?”, “Is this an elaborate Pokémon ripoff?” and “What the hell is going on here?”.
But, despite anything I said. The artwork. The freaking artwork! Gorgeous. And, for what it’s worth, I am curious enough to continue the journey.