The One By Rick Veitch or Comic Books that Must Survive the Apocalypse, Part 3.
Back in my Alan Moore’s MiracleMan review, I mentioned my Frankesteinian approach to bringing a perfect comic book writing homunculus to life. I would use parts from a number of esteemed comic book writers, however I failed to mention Rick Veitch.
This was intentional.
It’s because I could not, in any way, bring myself to even consider disturbing Rick’s possible grave. It’s because I could not bear the thought that I’d crack open his coffin and look at his withered remains and reach inside and rip off his glorious brain. Why?
Because Rick Veitch’s imagination and creative prowess is so great, that even Alan Moore admits that he feels intoxicated, awed even, at the end of each and every one of their exchanges. Because the man can produce trippy, wonderful ideas en masse and just imprint them on paper and make them stick with you.
In other words, because Rick Veitch is so goddamn talented, his comic books are like space parasites.
The kind that wraps its tail round your spine and gives you dioramas of unimaginable beauty in exchange for bits of your delicious brain matter.
Am I singing too much praise to Rick Veitch? Well yes, you could say I do. Are you feeling intimidated by its sheer volume, starting off even before I even get a chance to present the man to you, the reader? I guess you’d be right.
So befor we get to the main event, let’s start by discussing:
WHO THE HELL IS RICK VEITCH AND WHY SHOULD I, THE AVERAGE COMIC BOOK NERD KNOW HIM?
Because he’s affected the pop culture that you obsess over in more ways than you can possibly imagine, you uninformed dweeb.
Rick Veitch was born on the 7th of May in 1951 and along with his brother Tom, they’ve cut a swathe of creative destruction over the comic book landscape. Rick Veitch is mostly known for his work in the underground and alternative comic book scene.
But you probably haven’t heard of it, because they haven’t made a movie for the internet to exploit with useless memes and cat versions yet.
His work includes such delightful dreamquests as Maximortal, Abraxas and the Earthman and of course, last but not least, the best Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic book run conceived by man to this day.
It reads like the Seven Samurai, only scored by Quentin Tarantino with Special Effects by Jim Henson. You can safely surmise that the ink used in the original pencils is probably human.
Rick Veitch made TMNT popular in the underground scene, laying the foundation for them to reach the mainstream so that a bunch of you ungrateful bastards can now spend your days dreaming about how awesome that Saturday Morning Cartoon was.
Well guess what, folks? Without Rick Veitch, you’d just have spent your lives without it. Perhaps you might have ended up watching GI JOE reruns and ended up half-crazy, shooting your laser rifles at terrorists that never fucking existed.
Rick’s work is groundbreaking, powerful and has served to affect the comic book scene (or, to be specific, the minds that shaped the comic book scene). His work is cited as a source of inspiration by scores of artists and his drawing and writing has appeared in a great number of series, mostly by DC comics.
The series include Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing run
The series which turned the Swamp Thing into a god in its own right and made him earn the damn title, page by bloody page.
JLA’s Rules of Engagement
And of course, the last and final word on the Man from Krypton, Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?
To name but a few. His work is legion and you’d best start soon, before you die unfulfilled, thinking that the goddamn Avengers is the absolute pinnacle of what comic books superheroes can ever hope to achieve.
Voices of nerds shouting out their joy of acknowledgment were drowned out by the multitudes of fangirls fapping in unison.
His work mostly deals with spiritualism, the human mind and always serves to push the boundaries of what the comic book narrative can give you. In many ways, Rick Veitch was among the first to have attempted to reach the actual viewer with his work, way before the whole 4th-wall-collapsing effect became a goddamn industry mainstream in the mid-90’s.
He mostly brings about this message by adhering to a very basic trope of his, one that he has learned to hide behind layers of narrative in his later work, but simply spills out of the page in some of his early works like The One.
That’s the idea that superhumans aren’t human. Sure, they walk like humans, they cross the street and shit like humans, they even make sounds that are essentially human speech. But God have mercy on your poor soul if you fall for their ruse for even one damn second.
Smart move, lady. Keep pissing the superhuman that just fused coal into diamonds with his bare hands off, I’m sure that will work out just fine.
Be they gods, aliens, mutants, intergalactic cops or products of genetic manipulation originating froma lab, what’s important is this: They are not like us. They merely look the part. Sometimes they are far mightier than we are. Others, they are a danger that we must band together in order to face.
Either way, they were never meant to coexist, or mingle with us. They were never supposed to mix with us and keep protecting us or fighting our battles against cosmic entities for us forever. In his work, we see that people who associate (or even are caught in the path of) superhuman beings end up with superhuman abilities of their own, or trampled in the dirt along with the rest of the cattle.
The One uses this trope as a basis for its narrative, along with a series of others. It meshes its ideas in an excellent blend that has made me fall in love with this comic book since the day I first read through it.
So without any further ado, let’s jump into The One:
This is Itchy Itch:
He’s the richest bastard in the known world and he’s about to start off World War 3, threatening to end human kind in a blaze of nuclear fire. The little people screaming at him are the President of the United States and Premier Kubalov, lader of the Soviet Union.
Note how idiotic and unimportant they appear in this frame. This is mostly because they’re about to set off the apocalypse, but in a manner and form that no one could have predicted.
Meet the One:
He may not look the part, but he’s the ultimate superhero and humanity’s only hope to survive the coming disaster.
Cower in fear in the presence of The Other:
He’s the ultimate supevillain, the darkness in the human soul, the screeching ape from which we keep telling ourselves we outgrew, so we can sleep at night.
And now, for the superhumans:
The inhuman monsters of the US and the Soviet Union, unleashed upon humanity, that serve to initiate the apocalypse unwittingly.
The One is a story about humanity’s death and subsequent rebirth as something greater than its whole, both in the hands of the One, as well as the Other. It’s a crash course in spiritual evolution.
But enough with the geeking, shall we? I keep telling you how awesome the damn thing is and so far I haven’t listed one flaw. Well that’s mostly because I was hard-pressed to find any flaws in the damn series in the first place. It took me a long while to remove my rose-tinted glasses and look at this whole thing as objectively as possible but in the end, I did it.
All I had to do was rip my beating heart from my own chest for a while. Why couldn’t I think of that earlier?
· The One is an in-between narrative product:
The One was written in the 80’s and it’s a product of the time’s irrationality. It deals with the imminent threat of nuclear war, as well as the coming apocalypse that loomed heavily over mankind’s collective heads at the time.
It was an imminent event that had very nearly destroyed us all a number of times and it had planted itself inside our minds so deeply, that you couldn’t find any work of fiction without stumbling onto post-apocalyptic holocausts.
The One is exactly one such product of its times, but it seems unable to focus. Is it a piece on the apocalypse? Is it a piece on the transmutation of mankind into a new, greater whole? Is it about humans becoming more than what they are? Is it socio-political in nature, dealing with the maddening stupidity of its time?
The One deals with a number of heavy subjects, which it tangles with and then discards in breack-neck speeds. The comic moves from a Cold War focus, to spiritual evolution, to superhumanity and resolves itself so fast that you barely have time to wrap your head around its themes.
· Too much conspiracy.
The One is a piece whose sole purpose is to parody human values. It presents the richest man in the world living like some meth junky in a crack house, the President of the United States as a sex-starved voyeur and the Premier of the Communist Party as a lecher.
Once it’s done doing that, it points out how they’re all knee-deep into forbidden science, then forgets all about it, then reintroduces it as a plot point, then remembers that it’s a plot point somewhere along the line and then completely forgets about it, up until the last two pages, where we find out …
The genetically manipulated American superhumans are the result of illegal experiments. And why the hell is that important, exactly? Actually, scratch that. There’s a ton of other conspiratorial crap that shows up in The One like the one pictured above that we’re supposed to give a crap about. The question is why?
For God’s sake, there are superhumans tearing the Earth apart and immortal spirits fighting over us! The Earth is a living being! There are mile-high shoggoths! Why should we even waste pages on what the little people think?
· The Superhuman Battle:
This isn’t so much a flaw, more like a personal observation of mine. Remember how, previously in this review, I showed you some excellent scenes where the superhumans ripe the shit out of Manhattan? Wanna know exactly how many pages long this battle is?
10 pages. Ten. Goddamn. Pages.
They’re the best 10 pages of a superhero fight I’ve ever read, truth be told, which is why I was disappointed by their lack. They’re powerful, they’re perfectly paced, they’re violent as all hell and I haven’t found any better comic book fight scenes to this day.
So why is there so little of it? Couldn’t we get oh…I don’t know…maybe five pages more? Just five more pages of this glorious bashing to help blast our brains into orbit? I understand that The One was never about superheors punching each other but you know what? You shouldn’t have made the fights this damn good then, Rick Veitch.
So this is my opinion on The One. Is it trippy? Yes! Is it chock-full of cleverly placed symbolism? You bet your ass! Should it be placed inside a vault and stored there for future generations to ponder over in an attempt to discern our mad little culture?
Yes. Yes, a thousand times Yes.
What kind of food would it be? I’d say just a plain old dish of Buddha’s Delight, made out of fresh materials and cooked with love and devotion by a caring chef.
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