Comics Ate My Brain

September 12, 2005

All Together Now: City Of Tomorrow!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom Bondurant @ 4:36 pm
Howard Chaykin’s City of Tomorrow! (DC/WildStorm, June-November 2005) is best appreciated as a unit, not as a monthly miniseries. At least, that’s my conclusion, having just read its six issues in one setting. Chaykin wanted me to pay attention right from the beginning, but I treated each issue as if it could be enjoyed on its own for a few minutes every month.

City of Tomorrow! is the story of Tucker Foyle, his father Eli, and the independent utopian nation of Columbia that Eli founded. It takes place in the near future, but one not too far removed from today. Tucker is a jaded soldier marked for death by his superiors after following their orders to plant war-justifying WMDs. Thought dead, he returns to Columbia to find its robot underclass transformed by a computer virus into warring gangster factions. From there Tucker tries, in familiar Chaykinesque fashion, to clean up Columbia and confront his issues with his father.

That’s only the barest hint of an intricate plot, which as I said requires strict attention. I haven’t even addressed the women in the Foyle men’s lives, each of whom plays a unique role. However, I don’t want to spoil anything. Besides, the plot is complicated enough that I considered it an accomplishment to have kept up. Not that a complicated plot is a negative — here, Chaykin makes watching it unfold a pleasure.

Nevertheless, Chaykin’s character designs don’t make the characters any easier to distinguish. Tucker and his father are identical except for different-colored hair streaks, and even those might fool a careless reader (like me) into thinking the white-streaked Eli was the older version of the red-streaked Tucker. Likewise, the two mob bosses might be confused, if not for different parts in their hair, and one having a mustache. Adding to the confusion is Chaykin’s reliance on sound effects, which in the past has greatly enhanced the moods he sets, but here seem intrusive much of the time. Finally, it’s hard to tell when the first issue is flashing back, and since that’s the foundation for the rest of the story, the reader shouldn’t just plow through it.

However, City of Tomorrow! presents a story which seeks to be rapid-fire and fast-paced. It is full of Chaykin’s trademark noir-driven dialogue, which gives each character’s voice a certain world-weary tinge and a few dramatic declarative statements. There’s lots of gunplay, double-dealing, and sexual innuendo, which again comes with the territory. Some parts of the plot are easier to predict than others, and the whole thing ends up feeling like a pilot episode. (It even has a subtitle: “Human Nature, Metal Fatigue.”) When I put down issue #6, I didn’t feel like Tucker’s story was finished — instead, I appreciated how Chaykin had played out his various plot threads to get Tucker to a particular point.

I would probably read a sequel to City of Tomorrow!, and I’m not sorry I picked up these issues, but they don’t offer much that is new or innovative. Still, even average Chaykin is better than a lot of comics. City of Tomorrow! was a well-made miniseries which should make a fine collected edition, and who knows — maybe then we’ll get a sequel which explores the issues this story produced.

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