Kieron Gillen's workblog




Panelbleed is playing up at the moment, so I post this here for now. I just wanted something not related to that TLA on the page.

“Crying Yourself To Sleep Over Your Losses, Regrets And Loneliness”
MEK #1-3
Warren Ellis/Steve Rolston

That Mek stays with me proves that brilliance alone is never enough.

Mek was one of the barrage of pop-comics Ellis penned towards the end of the WEF-infamy. The reception was mixed to say the least, with the best – Red features some of the finest action comics of the last five years – getting mixed up in the general apathy that the genuinely abominable Tokyo Storm Rising. Mek sat quietly in the middle of the group, engendering little more than a shrug in most comic-based discussion and a little affection in the cultural-sub-sects it mirrored.

This is understandable.

It’s slow paced. Not an awful lot happens. It hits a fair selection of Ellis’ more familiar tropes. Certainly, at a glance, the tenet of the piece seems terribly close to something that’d be thrown away in a panel in Transmetropolitan. Equally, with a couple of memorable exceptions, Rolston’s art proves wholly unsuitable. While managing the fashion and feel of a real pop-culture, never even vaguely convinces in its central conceit.

The conceit being a pop-culture set based around elective cybernetic surgery: Mek.

Sarisa Leon, Original Mek-scene-former and now Washington Lobbyist, returns to the place of its birth to find that while she’s been away its mutated from an art-culture to street-violence. Her old lover has been killed in a Bad-Mek deal gone wrong, and she needs to find out why. And then she does so. And then she does something about it, and it’s not quite what you expected.

The “it’s not quite what you expected” is why Mek sticks with me when better comics – hell, even better Ellis comics – have been forgotten.

Until the third issue, you believe that Sarisa is a driven, sympathetic protagonist disappointed with the scene she helped created and trying to get to the heart of it.

At which point you discover that she’s actually a monster.

Re-reading, you realise it’s been there all along and you just didn’t notice it. The fact that we were following her is the real reason we find her sympathetic: she must be the good guy, as why else would we be spending so much time with her? Her hard expressions and occasionally abrasive attitude… well, Ellis has produced so many hard-characters working for the greater good, we’re accepting of it. Even Rolston’s art helps convince us, with its personable, even cute, characters.

But, no, she’s a monster.

Here’s the problem that Mek illustrates beautifully: that the people who change the world are the people who want to change the world. After all, what sort of person would actually attempt to manufacture a movement from disparate strands of social fashion? Someone who lacks something in the current one.

Circa Baader Meinhoff there was another group in Germany who formed around a radical psychiatrist. He militarised his group of patients, arguing that rather than change people whose mental disorders mean they can’t function in society, the problem actually lay in the society itself. If society changed, then their disorders would cease. Hence, terrorism by the insane to destroy an insane society.

That sticks with me even more than Mek does, because it makes a similar point. There’s something severely wrong with anyone who’d attempt to manufacture something like Mek, to push it further, to try and tie it under an easily digestible banner and… well, you’d have to be someone like Sarisa Leon, crying yourself to sleep over your losses, regrets and loneliness yet still prepared to kill anyone who dares get in her way or crosses her plans.

But it’s not quite so simple. The Bad Mek society of Sky Road is shown to only be the hardest edge of Mek culture. While it’s a social problem, Mek is accepted in a lesser form by the whole of society, exploding from her and her friends attempts to get the message out. Would Mek have happened in the same way without her efforts? As quickly? Been picked up by as many people? Been accepted? Been even talked about? Probably not.

Mek leaves me thinking two things:

1) Monsters can do good things too.
2) It doesn’t make them any less of a monster.


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