Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Sins of the Wreckers Part 3 - The Belly of Whales

- Leigh Gregurke

Sins of the Wreckers (2016) written and drawn by Nick Roche, Colours by Josh Burcham with additional colours by Joana Lafuente, letters by Tom B. Long, edited by John Barber. Published by IDW.

Disclaimer : The following article contains a number of major spoilers for Sins of the Wreckers in addition to ambitious plot conjecture. While the previous articles contain value without reading the work I thoroughly suggest you have read the work to appreciate the commentary here within.

In the previous two articles I examined the way in which art can transmit the mood of a scene, demonstrate the power of relationships between characters and foreshadow important narrative development. This article will swim a little further to the side of conjecture and theory crafting as I delve into visual metaphors, semiotics and symbolism. The creators marks and intent I feel were on display for the trained eye as I discussed line work and colour but my background in contemporary and conceptual art demands I find meaning in absolutely everything, nothing is arbitrary and everything has significance.

Theory 1. Springer's Hero's Journey

The first time I read the work; Springer's rising from his deathbed felt a little... cliche? Unexplained? Where maybe there was a chance for another character's heroics instead the reader was treated to another round of overly heroic power posed Springer action. The story did pay off and their was enough angle to make it work but what if the characters arc was suggesting content even deeper with its attention to traditional mythological literature tropes intertwined with challenging memories and experiences.

In a book underpinned by contrasts, moral states and guilt every emotional action is worthy of analysis and the acknowledgment of the author and reader is evident in every scene. Roche's previous work 'Last Stand of the Wreckers' feels a little more direct in its action adventure, a love letter to disposable hero films of the past and in reflection of the villain's actions we never question their own violence. I find in Sins from the outset we are asked to witness overly violent acts that push into the enjoyment of killing on behalf of our heroes. 

Springer's rise into this world is not explored or explained, he in essence arises because he is needed and the cross symbology at first I found a little... blunt. After an initial heroic entrance, a 'call to action' pose that even as a single page pin up reads as a slow motion camera push we are shown Springer being somewhat uncomfortable and out of place. Struggling with the political context he desires a return to action and familiarity and once the heroes are assembled it is as though he never left and we are returned to iconic central images of courage, power and confidence.

I don't think it is coincidence that Springer's arc follows Joseph Campbell's literary methodology 'A Hero's Journey". Not only as a useful narrative guideline for engaging storytelling but also to potentially place a lens on the arc's almost perfection as a heroic mythological endeavor. Campbell's work makes note of the 'Belly of the Whale' being a traditional defining story element. Linked with baptism and the hero's need to conquer doubt and create a sense of self. The belly of whale acts as a threshold from one world to another and prepares the hero for both forthcoming challenges and death. Springer fights doubt, confusion and a lack of action by entering the literal belly of whale and passing through a literal portal wherein he finds power again through a series of trial like baptism's. Campbell's methodology even begins the heroic Journey with a rise or 'call to action' further cementing the origin of this passage.

Campbell aptly talks in his work about the important and often climatic leg of the journey being an atonement with the 'father'. This often in narrative is represented through mastery over a powerful other or authority figure, an actual father or the act of moving past childhood to adulthood. A martial act of defeating or overcoming the father figure is a common feature in myth and it is no surprise to see the penultimate scenes of the book flashing to the conflict between Springer and his creator Tarantulas. Roche's art even suggest the sublime or transcendent, as we witness both an explosive moment but also one of realization and emotion, a barrier or threshold crossed that uses the contrasting flat black and white panels indicating key moments in the work. The text is absent but demonstrates both the intensity of the situation and also leaves the dialogue powerfully personal and contained, an inner struggle between two intrinsically connected characters. 

One of Campbell's final suggested stages is described as "magical flight" wherein the hero achieves power and freedom, while not necessarily a physical act of flight it is a powerful metaphor. Early in the work Springer before his baptism in the whale is pulled from the sky by Carnivac robbing him of that freedom, in the confrontation with his father figure Springer leaps upwards in act of final defiance attaining again freedom and mastery arising from the depths of his baptism.

Springer's arc is defined not only by his heroic journey but his absolute need to take one as it defines him. Talking as he faces his potential fate he expresses that he "needs peace" at contrast to his overarching desire for action. Joseph Campbell when talking about the stage of atonement also alludes to a self generated double-monster, a dragon (point of challenge) of super-ego and Id. The psychology apparatus of Id, ego and super ego defined by Sigmund Freud could be seen as represented by the characters all who are employed as 'father figures' to Springer. Impactor as Id, impetuous action and instinctual motion, ego as Prowl's rational organized but harsh realism and Tarantulas as super-ego, a god like station of critical moralization and creation. To assist in defeating these challenges Campbell identifies in myth a common occurrence of a priestess figure, a woman or female figure that offers guidance, assurance and assistance. Due to the contrast in the human and Cybertronian relationship it is easy to forget about Verity's position as point of female guidance for the hero, both a symbol of power and mortality, kindness and retribution.

Springer's Journey ends on what appears a sweet moment of reflection, with his priestess figure Verity they echo a scene of earlier desires to see the Northern Lights, acknowledgment of the loss of a comrade. As Verity muses on the impossibility of their situation, the lights are eerily reminiscent in both colour and shape to the visual depictions of the Noisemaze, knowing she will see them again and again in contrast to her believed terminal state is both empowering but also suggestive of something bittersweet? The two engage on their mortality and position, their humanity and lack of control, there is a tremendous sense of isolation in the image as the characters are dwarfed by the contrast of blackness and the Northern Lights themselves.

The heroic Journey undertaken by Springer is one that both utilizes and seems to parade its dedication to its framework. Underneath those layers of powerful iconic almost mythological imagery are suggestions of tiredness, confusion and pained dreams. The usage of the red paneled images, Springer's lifeless face... tie us back to the past, another time for Springer as underneath he draws upon the potential of what could happen. What if perhaps though... the red state represents his physical reality. Comatose and paralyzed dreaming of empowerment and action, we the viewer are seeing a character already subjected to the effects of the Noisemaze, a characters idealistic but imperfect situation?

We only challenge Prowl's Noisemaze vision because of immediate context, the narrative and dedicated change in art give us a strong indication of the switch in states but without the character of Tarantulas to indicate that switch, is it up to us? Verity converses with Springer on the state of dreams, always red once again calling back to a more traumatic and contrasting memory, or perhaps his current existence. In the previous article I talked about the foreshadowing and colour usage to demonstrate Springer's later situation in the cave, the green of his life support echoed in the green crystals where he seeks atonement, clever foreshadowing or his surrounding influences on his unconscious desires?. Regardless of his mortality and state, Springer's tale in Roche's Sins of the Wreckers is reflective of a dream or myth, a heroic journey, a Christ like rise guided by an immortal priestess, an atonement with the father and self and the finding of bliss. 

There is one part remaining of my analysis, another examination of the narrative. Part four will really push into the fan theory sphere examining the sublime, suggestive and metaphorical as we examine mushrooms, rabbit holes, Pinocchio and Captain Nemo

As always, keep it #Refined

Follow Leigh on Twitter at @AmbushThem

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