Apr 6, 2009

[Comics] Enigma

EnigmaBack in 1993, DC Comics decided to push the envelope of the comic book medium by launching it's Vertigo line of comics, focused on more mature audiences. Vertigo was not bound by the traditional rules that governed most mainstream comics at the time and was free to explore new ideas, controversial topics and depicting all this in unique (and often extreme) ways.

It was such a revolutionary notion at the time, especially one for a major comic book producer like DC, and it certainly helped change the development of comic books at the time. It gave writers a completely new playing field with different rules and thus new opportunities. What was commonly taboo could now be explored at length or toyed around with to one degree or another.

Many thought the idea wouldn't get off the ground. Of course given Vertigo's continued popularity over the years, I guess it shows what those naysayers know.

Enigma was one of the first series released by Vertigo in 1993. Spanning 8 issues, it tackled the strange world of Michael Smith as a costumed vigilante known as Engima appears in the world. What makes it strange is that Enigma was a comic book character that Michael loved as a young boy despite the fact the series did not last more than 3 issues. With the Enigma now made real somehow and his arch nemeses terrorizing the city, Michael can't help but feel that he's somehow involved in all this.

Enigma (Vertigo)Image via Wikipedia

At first glance, the comic is pretty disturbing and strange from the onset. The art lacks the clean, tidy lines that most other comic books maintained at the times and the notions of the "hero" Enigma and his first villain, the Head, seems like something out of MTV's Liquid Television line of cartoons, such as the original Aeon Flux. It's the kind of comic that some acid-tripping writer might come up with given how unusual the plot is.

But that's the beauty of it all - it seems like madness when in fact there's a very complex plan in place, a sense of order that you need to really take many steps back to see, and probably some shades that need to be word and some difficult physical position to get your mind in the right mental state. It's hard to explain, but it really is just one of those kinds of stories, if you somewhat get my drift.

The story itself is just surreal - what would you do if your childhood hero from the comic book world suddenly appeared amongst us "regular" folk. What do you do when that fourth wall gets broken and the realm of fantasy is merged with reality? What is just based on the comic book and what is created from your unique understanding of things? Throw in other ideas and concepts like dealing with homosexuality, cult suicides and whatnot and you have...this. But it's more than that.

I'm thankful a friend of mine was able to share this amazing series with me. Somehow he had managed to find original copies of the individual issues even though the trade paperback is now out of print as well. I feel bad for the many folks out there who missed this amazing series during its run and may never get a chance to read it ever.

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