Sean Maher's Quality Control

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Finder: Goodnight, Irene, I'll see you in my dreams

Ladies and gentlemen, you’re reading the blog of an employed man! I am now the proud new bartender-in-training at Aziza, an awesome Moroccan restaurant at 5800 Geary Boulevard.

I’m totally psyched. The place is “by far the best Moroccan restaurant in the city” according to Chronicle restaurant critic Michael Bauer. They were just listed in San Francisco magazine as one of the 50 Best Restaurants in the city. The friggin’ Wall Street Journal is giving these people press for their wild cocktail menu. I got on board a hell of a fine ship.

Now, I’d never really bartended a day in my life. My first day? It was Friday night. Holy crap. Then my second day? Well, that was Saturday night. Holy crap. It was just me and the head bartender back there, mixing drinks like madmen, running for new glasses, cutting up garnishes, chatting up the customers when we had a spare second (and trying to politely deflect them when we didn't). It was a blast. I can’t wait for more. Happy days.

So. This is a comics blog, isn’t it? Well, I honestly haven’t had a hell of a lot of time to do much reading this weekend, for obvious reasons. So it’s time to lean back on the past a little bit.

It was a few months ago that Kirsten Baldock (of Smoke And Guns renown) pointed me to Carla Speed McNeil’s awesome Finder series. I’d first really noticed McNeil when she did some really killer artwork for Frank Ironwine, my favorite of last year’s Apparat books by Warren Ellis. Her style was gritty and suave at the same time, balancing the darker elements of the story and the roughness of the characters against her own graceful sense of layout and figure. I know this is the kind of point I come to a lot; I’m just really taken with work that challenges my expectations, that embraces "classic" genre elements while bringing new styles and ideas to the table at the same time. It’s that perfect marriage of craft and content that I’m always looking for.

So, Finder. The series has been running for a while, self-published under Lightspeed Press, and has several trades out. Each arc, I understand, is pretty much self-contained. The trade Kirsten hooked me up with was "Dream Sequence", a really cool sci-fi story about Magri White, a guy who creates a world in his dreams that people can visit through technology – a dream guru of sorts, and a huge celebrity as his dream world becomes more and more popular – and profitable.

Of course, something goes wrong. But not just one thing; one of the really fun elements of this story is just how many perils interweave with each other. There’s a destructive force somewhere in Magri’s mind, a rogue killer stalking and eviscerating his guests. At the same time, some guests are beginning to get addicted to this virtual life, losing their way in the real world as they juice into this perfect mental construct. And lurking behind both of these problems are the businessmen who market – and do their best to control – Magri’s amazing mind. They stand to lose everything if it gets out that (A) people are dying violently while consuming their product, and (B) the experience is acting like an addictive narcotic. All these threads pull and tug on each other, and McNeil also introduces some existentialist questions into the mix without belaboring them; this is dense work, to be sure, but it reads smoothly and entertainingly.

And, of course, the artwork is absolutely stunning – very similar to what I found in the Frank Ironwine book, but a little more polished, replacing some of the grimy inking with a more elegant line (that seems subtly European, not totally unlike Jason Lutes’ work) and showing a light manga influence in certain facial expressions. It’s great work that really enhances the visceral tension of the story, on top of just being really beautiful to look at.

I’ve not yet tracked down the other books in the series, but they’re on my list for sure. This is A-grade stuff, and I’m glad there’s more out there for me. If any of y’all are interested, McNeil’s got the whole first issue available online for free at her website.

Now playing: An awesome cover of The Boss' "Atlantic City" by Hank Williams III. He throws a sweet hillbilly twang on it, the kind of thing that gets me stompin' and dancin' like a fool every time. Isotope regulars will recognize this as the "Gin n' Juice Effect".


  • At 5:39 AM, Blogger zilla said…

    dude i used to bartend (for a few years back in college) and i can't BELIEVE you started on a friday night... ha - that's hilarious to me (and any bartender out there ;)

  • At 10:17 AM, Blogger Sean Maher said…

    Man, Friday was NOTHING compared to Monday BY MYSELF. :D

    But yeah, I guess I'm sorta jumping it with both feet, y'know? Which is cool, 'cause that's just how I like it. Why half-ass this stuff?

    Any pointers for me as I'm getting started?


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