Saturday, 23 April 2016

The Twilight Children Review (Gilbert Hernandez, Darwyn Cooke)

A scenic Latin fishing village’s peaceful existence is disturbed when giant white orbs begin appearing. Children go blind, people go missing, and a mysterious blonde woman called Ela appears - what does it all mean? 

The Twilight Children was one of the few Vertigo titles in recent years to catch my eye because it has two creators whose work I’ve really enjoyed in the past: Gilbert Hernandez (Love and Rockets) and Darwyn Cooke (Parker). But while this isn’t a bad comic, it’s also not a wholly satisfying one because the story is so impossible to understand! 

I’ve been reading Beto’s comics for years and his script for The Twilight Children instantly has the familiar flavour of his Palomar books: Latin village, promiscuous lady, world-weary sheriff, sad old man, mischievous kids, and plenty of magical realism. The difference is that Cooke’s drawing his story this time around and instantly rejuvenates that world with his beautiful style and Dave Stewart’s lush colours. The artwork is absolutely wonderful throughout. 

The many little storylines are mildly amusing: the soap opera-esque drama of Tito and the various men she’s fooling around with, the sad life of town drunk Bundo and his secret history, the mysterious Ela, and of course the orbs (which are basically just Rover from The Prisoner). None of it really goes anywhere though. What are the orbs and why are they sometimes blinding people and sometimes teleporting them away? Who’s Ela and what connection does she have with the orbs? Why is she and the Orbs here in this particular place and time? We never find out and it’s maddening! 

Maybe the orbs are the Judeo-Christian God? Ela is the Orb’s daughter sent to Earth to save us (which she does at the end); the blindness and the curing of them are “miracles”; being transported into a realm of light could be “heaven”; Bundo could be seen as a prophet. Perhaps a similar story to the one that happened in this book took place a couple thousand years ago in a less sophisticated time and so Christianity was born? 

That’s just me thinking out loud though, the whole thing could simply be mystery for mystery’s sake or a homage to shows like The Twilight Zone and The Prisoner. I did like how when the obvious (but kinda funny in a Thomson and Thompson way) pair of CIA agents showed up pretending to be American tourists, everyone knew they were secret agents here to capture and study Ela/the Orbs. This is a world where the people have seen E.T. and The X-Files and can recognise shady government types, unlike people in other similar stories, which is refreshing to see. 

The Twilight Children is an interesting sci-fi mystery comic that never bored me but never rose above its premise to really impress me with anything else either. It’s definitely worth a look if you’re a fan of these creators or this genre but be prepared for a very underwhelming finale. Points for still trying for originality, Vertigo!

The Twilight Children

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