This is a Conan comic through and through. Seriously, if you don’t know any of the names, any of the figures in American politics, you can read it absolutely straight. And at its core it’s a fairly humdrum, by the numbers fantasy epic. But the reason people are going to care is the insertion of Obama and all the references to his campaign and time in office that get attached to characters, their language and their actions. And I can be a sucker for that kind of thing. From Neverwhere to Phonogram, from Jonathan Strange to Little Blighty On The Down, that mixture of fantasy and reality can be a heady brew. And I thought I’d be the perfect audience for this.
But this is where the book falls down for me. Sure this is a parallel on Obama’s rise to power defeating the Republicans, but it’s history retold at a very surface level, with references like wallpaper. This is less The Daily Show and more Tek Jensen. Which is the only thing that can get me to switch off The Colbert Report.
However, just as I was resigned to not enjoying this as much as I hoped, the book threw in a very interesting structural twist indeed. With the whole of this story reinterpreted as the far post-apocalyptical, post-technological future’s take on our own time, including Flintstones-like reinterpretation of electronics, seeing our society as onepowered by dead dinosaurs in a world where people talk from continent to continent using berries. And suddenly this gives the book a new perspective, aspects that seemed stupid were, well, exactly that. The future reinterpreting its past in a stupid fashion.
And suddenly I’m approaching this book in a different fashion, and chunks of it make better reading the second time around. So bear that in mind when flicking through the comic in the store. If, of course you can find a copy…
Barack The Barbarian #1 by Larry Hama and Tim Seeley for Devil’s Due ships this Wednesday.