Saturday, March 6, 2010

Sparta U.S.A. #1

Written by David Lapham
Art by Johnny Timmons

David Lapham is very good at constructing enclosed, crucible like environments in which to set his stories. He did this in both his Spectre story for DC and his 30 Days of Night story, where almost all of the action was centred around apartment buildings. Towards the end of his amazing Young Liars title for Vertigo, he began to explore similar themes, while moving the action to the town of Browning, a corporate-owned and walled-off town.

Now, he is bringing us Sparta USA, an all-American heartland town where everyone works, lives, and breathes the American dream. At the heart of the town is football, which serves as both obsession and founding myth for the people who live there. As the first issue moves along, we quickly figure out that there is more going on in this town than just high-school football tournaments though. It seems that no one ever leaves the town, and the one person who did, gridiron hero Godfrey McLaine, promptly disappeared.

Except now he's back, and he's red in colour. At first, I thought this might have been a printing mistake, but then we meet the Maestro, the central figure of authority for the town, and the person responsible for distributing new citizens - given to him by the President of the USA - to Spartans to raise. The Maestro is blue.

I don't really understand all that's happening yet. I know that Uncle Bill dug a tunnel to his neighbour, Leonides's house, and murdered his entire family, I think so that his son can take over the general store. Beyond that, Lapham's playing it close to the chest, as he sets us up for the returned Godfrey's big reveal on the last page.

The art for this book, sadly, is not by Lapham, but by a newcomer (to me at least) named Johnny Timmons. His art reminds me very much of Tommy Lee Edwards and John Paul Leon, which is never a bad thing. This is another example of Wildstorm publishing strange, genre-bending comics, which probably won't get half the attention it deserves. If you're bored by your recent comics purchases, you should give this a try.

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