Life… Only better
You may or may not know that this was made into a movie starring Bruce Willis back in 2009. I saw the movie first and had no idea this was a movie until recently when I was at a used book store and I saw the special edition trade and picked it up. I was a little surprised that it was a graphic novel first and felt I had to check it out.
Vinditti has mostly been under the radar, as the The Surrogates was his first work and it undoubtedly his most famous. Now he writes for DC’s Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps. He has also written for X-O Manowar and Demon Knights. Other than that not much more information is available on Vinditti. Although, according to Wikipedia when he first started writing he was not a fan of comics until a friend recommended he read Astro City, after reading that title he was he sold on comics and decided to change his career to become a comic writer. I love that story, always cool to hear a story about a new convert to comics. I cannot wait for the day when comics are no longer viewed with the childish undertones that they have now. Vinditti’s experience is a prime example of not judging a book by its cover.
The story takes place in a 2054 in Georgia Central Metropolis, which is basically a massive city in Georgia. Everyone uses remote controlled humanoid bodies called Surrogates to live their lives. The story follows a detective (Greer) as he hunts down a mysterious bad guy who he has named Steeplejack. Steeplejack has been attacking and destroying surrogates and Greer is trying to stop him. What he uncovers along the way is a very twisted and philosophical ending that will keep you entertained and turning the page. The trade also consists of a prequel that follows Greer as he first starts out as a cop investigating a murder by a Surrogate on a homeless man.
I liked the story overall, and it is basically two different stories in this trade. The Surrogates was first released in 2005 is the main story and what the movie was eventually based on. A prequel Surrogates Flesh and Blood was later released in 2009 and used some of the same characters but a few years earlier. The prequel showed the beginnings of the culture and how they got started using the Surrogates and some of the many problems associated with them. I think both stories are great. The more I think about the prequel I really like it. It reads more like a sifi novel, and explores so many other deeper issues in this world than just the idea of the Surrogates. The thing I like is how it almost sweeps aside the obvious Surrogates and uses that to tell a different story one that has been told a million times ,but this time with a totally new and exciting twist. It really shows how comics can differ from story to story, even within the same world.
During the story in between chapters there are newspaper articles that talk about different things going on in the story. They usually talk about something that happens in the book or maybe some advertising of a new model of Surrogate. These things in the book are very creative and must have taken a lot of extra time. I am on the fence about them as a whole. They really slow down the reader as most of the articles are pretty long for a graphic novel. So I will say that they are very cool and creative but could have been a little shorter to cut down on the length to help the story flow. I felt like when I finished reading one of these articles I had to remember where the actual story left off.
The story was very interesting and the writer did a good job of showing a very strange world, while still making it familiar. I want to say it is a dystopian society but for some reason I cannot put it into that category. It is all too real and familiar to be thrown into the category, despite the invention of the Surrogates. I also love all the different ideas that are explored in the book. There are so many questions that deal with technology and human experience that make for some great talking points. The more I think about this story I find myself wondering why it is not more popular especially since it was made into a movie. The other school of thought is that, it is popular and it was made into a movie. I will say that I do not think the movie bombed but I did see where it got a few negative reviews. I felt these were unwarranted, but this review focuses on the book not the movie. My point is that I consider myself pretty well read and when something that was a book/comic/graphic novel gets made into a movie I usually know what book it came from. I had no idea this was a graphic novel before being made into a movie. So that means that it may or may not have done well as a graphic novel. I am not sure how to look that info up?
Here is my theory why this story was not as popular as it could have been, THE ARTWORK! First off let me say that I am in no way an artist and I would be the first to say my drawings would not be fit to grace the inside of a portable toilet at the bottom of the ocean, much less anything that would be seen by human eyes. I do not like bashing artwork, because trying to create a comic of my own I know how much time and effort goes into that aspect of the book. With that being said the artwork in the book is very very stylized. I have not seen anything else like it in anything I have read. It is so primitive and simple, using as few lines as possible to create an image, at least that is how I viewed it. If I am being very cruel I would place this a few levels above stick figures, obviously it is not that bad but I cannot stress the simplicity of the artwork. There is a little detail on some close-ups of faces but other than that the style looks rushed and uses very little detail throughout the story. There is almost no background detail in any frame throughout the story. If you cannot tell I am not really a fan of this style, that does not mean that it is bad. I just think for the complexity for the story a more detailed or more traditional style would have taken this book to the next level. The page layouts are fairly typical not much to comment on for this aspect of the book. The colors are very strange as they are very flat. Often each page is colored in a single color with various shades of that single color adding the overall color to the page and scene. Almost every color on every page is either a dull yellow or a light to dark to gray blue, with some various shading to add shadows and different effects. It is a very interesting color scheme one that again, I have not seen before. I kind of like it as it is very different and very unique.
Overall I really liked this story. It was a nice surprise to find this book in the used book store. I will say that the hardcover edition that collects both the prequel and the main story retails for $75, if you can believe that. I got mine for considerably less than that. For the record I would never pay that much for any graphic novel. (I must confess that I got my copy for $9.99, always check out the used book store! You never know what you might find.) Anyways if you cannot find a used version of this for way less than the retail price I would say pass on this one. I will say that you do get a nicely designed book along with a ton of pages, not to mention the extra work for the articles, but still the $75 price Icannot justiry in any way. The price along with the artwork I believe are the primary reasons this book was not a bigger commercial success. To me it seems that right off the bat they have already priced themselves out of a normal comic/graphic novel market. When was the last time you spent that much on any single trade? I know you can argue that it got a movie deal, but usually books/graphic novels that reach that level are well known in the comic world. I think this one was under the radar and somehow found its way into a movie producers hands. I would love to know how that happened, and I am in no way saying that it did not deserve a movie. The story is great and definitely worthy of a movie, as it has so many important aspects that are barely explored in this book. I know I have been less than kind on the artwork, but the story is really great and has some great points about technology and how humans interact with it. One thing I have not mentioned are the characters. The story has some great characters and it is interesting to read how they react to what is going on in the story and how they change. Technology is very powerful and can control your life if you let it. I recommend checking this one out if you can find it for a reasonable price.
Sorry for the poor quality of the cover photo, could not get a good one.