Last week I read Pandemonium, which was an outstanding horror story reminiscent of Stephen King’s The Shining. It was such a scary story that I felt reading another horror story would make the latter suffer by comparison. So this week I needed something completely different, and I found that in The Compleat Terminal City, written by Dean Motter and illustrated by Michael Lark.
Terminal City is a place which isn’t quite the future nor is it a steam-punk past. It’s the future as seen by Philip Marlowe with some technology and a seedy underside that hasn’t changed in years; it’s where old entertainment super-stars like Cosmo Quinn, the human fly, wash windows to make ends meet; it’s a place where L’il Big Lil, the gangster queen, comes when hired for a job. Most of all, it’s about the crazy residents of the Herculean Arms Hotel and the adventures that befall them in a week that isn’t anything close to normal.
It should come as no surprise that Dean Motter, creator of the classic series Mr. X, wrote an outstanding story. More than just writing a fun story, Motter engaged in world building with a large ensemble cast of interesting characters, a large over-arching plot, and a plethora of sub-plots. It’s everything you could ever want in a story. The cast is truly wonderful and has someone that everyone can relate tool: there are older characters dealing with end of life issues, young people trying to find themselves, and people in the middle still trying to figure life out. You can’t help but relate to someone. The plot, with just a pinch of noir and a splash of human interest, weaves each of the characters in and out of their respective storylines with perfect skill.
In terms of art, Alex Ross’s quote on the cover sums Terminal City up perfectly: “This is one of the best marriages of story and art I’ve seen in years….” Lark, artist on the classic Gotham Central series, is at the top of his game in this series. He incorporates so many story ideas within the panels that you can’t just read the story. You have to look at both each page and each panel to really appreciate everything that is going on. Besides pop culture Easter Eggs all over the place, many characters interact and make appearances in the background which often foreshadow events to come. It’s not just characters either–graffiti on the walls, headlines on newspaper, and even shadows all play a part in the overall story. The art is nothing short of fantastic.
The Compleat Terminal City is world unto itself that will suck you in for a fun filled ride. It’s both soap opera and action film rolled into one. It moves each member of a large cast around with such skill and ease that you can’t help but love all of them. If you are looking for a book like nothing else on the stands then this is the book for you.
- David Lee