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Thursday, March 15, 2012

DAMN Good Comics -- SAUCER COUNTRY #1

Back in the day, fans of the classic science-fiction TV series The X-Files were fond of saying "The truth is out there."  Well, this new series from DC Comics' VERTIGO line seems to hint that the truth may actually be at 1 Mansion Drive in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Saucer Country is essentially the high concept of "The X-Files meets The West Wing," starring a fictional Democrat (or perhaps Independent) governor of New Mexico by the name of Arcadia Alvarado.  As the first divorced Hispanic female declaring her intention to run for President of the United States, something sadly unlikely in this current real-life American political climate, Alvarado is haunted by strange blackouts and disturbing flashes she can't explain.  The realization she concludes by the end of the first issue firmly sets the tone for what promises to be an interesting ride.

Writer Paul Cornell, no stranger to the subject of aliens based on his previous work in comics, novels and television, made an intriguing choice to explore the notion of alien abduction by framing it with a political setting.  Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris did something similar recently by fusing superheroics with politics in the 50-issue series WildStorm series Ex Machina, but Cornell manages to replicate the appeal of Ex Machina without making it feel derivative.  Based on this first issue, Saucer Country is more than willing to tell its own story with its own set of already fascinating characters.

Apart from Alvarado, Part One of "Run" introduces us to her ex-husband and apparent fellow abductee Michael, her unsettlingly-proper head of security Fausto, her exasperated chief of staff Harry, her blunt Republican campaign adviser Chloe Saunders, and just for kicks, a suspended Harvard University professor of modern folklore named Joshua Kidd who believes in UFOs and seemingly hallucinates a miniature naked man and woman calling themselves "The Pioneer 10 Couple."  Sure, why not.

Co-creator Ryan Kelly handles the art, doing a solid job of making the flashes of alien images feel necessarily disturbing while doing his homework in order to capture real-life locations such as the New Mexico Governor's Mansion.  This first issue asks quite a bit from Kelly in terms of mood changes and tonal shifts, but he moves things along nicely, complementing Cornell's script instead of distracting from it.

There quite a bit to take in here, almost feeling like this issue should've been expanded in page count.  However, it's still a promising start to what will hopefully be a successful series with lots of additional ground to cover if the last page is any indication.  The tease for the next issue claims that "Nothing is real," so if you'll excuse me, I have the sudden urge to listen to "Strawberry Fields Forever" by The Beatles...

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