Monday, 6 July 2015

Private eyes are watching you: Doomsday, my dear

A dystopia is easily made comedic and clunky by partisan blinkers and dated references. It's hard to pull it off artistically as well as create a polemic answer to tyranny.

Not that we don't have precedents: the most obvious being the slow disintegration of the Wiemar republic and South Africa as a case study of a democracy devolving into discrimination. Targeting despised out-groups was the sport of much of the 20th century. The mass delusion of malleable crowds is the central underpinning  of Doomsday, my Dear.

  The strip shows an outbreak primarily from the perspective of passive carriers of a 'blood plague'. They are identifiable by their eye colour. Unlike the plethora of zombie and post-apocalyptic narratives this isn't about about the extreme breakdown of societal norms. This is a strip that shows a consensus driven road to authoritarianism that's filled with good intentions.

The introductory chapter feels like the creator is trying to work out the tone and direction of the strip. It allows enough context to understand this world. Thankfully, the strip soon uplifts into an adult narrative about the travails of surviving a state-authorized pogrom.

With just under 400 strips this webcomic didn't waste time meandering either as a narrative or artistically. While there's some slight use of shadow for contrast overall this strip has changed from a painterly lo-fi approach into a crisp and clean read and frankly it looks all the better for it.

 This is a complex story that belies easy categorization and it weaves between multiple viewpoints. It is quite willing to display needless mendacity and unnecessary cruelty but  this adult world is also luckily undercut by some needed levity among the darkness.

The villains portrayed here in the security forces are not altogether monsters and the time spent showing their foibles is worthwhile character building. While the trope of the banality of evil can become ambiguous this strip  shows how good people do bad things. In the process it creates a fulsome collection of characters and viewpoints that allows a varied and entertaining collage to appear.

Musical accompaniment: David Bowie's Station to station. Good occult darkness if you know where to look. 

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