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Put the Queen on the main viewscreen, Mr. Worf – Sebastian O

October 4, 2011

If nothing else, I can thank (or curse) this series for expanding my genre vocabulary. In my internet reading to find out just what the hell this was, I discovered what steampunk is. Long story short, it’s Jules Verne stuff, i.e. advanced technology in a historical setting, steam-powered helicopters, that sort of crap. According to some of the pictures on the Wikipedia page, it’s also another excuse for pasty, doughy white people to play dress-up. Good for them.

Edumication. It’s a beautiful thing.

If you’ve ever asked what it would be like if Oscar Wilde was a Victorian era amoral James Bond, Sebastian O is your answer. Penned by Grant Morrison and drawn by Steve Yeowell in 1993, it looks and reads a lot like more well-known works set in that epoch, like The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Gotham by Gaslight, and maybe a dash of Elseworlds material. Not to dismiss it, but if you’ve seen one, in some ways you’ve seen them all.

The “steampunk” (God help us) elements are kind of fun. Steam powered carriages, wooden choppers, skyscrapers, palm readers and the like all make for an odd read that remains visually stimulating throughout. Sometimes these purposeful anachronisms might even make you chortle aloud, as I did when confronted by a gigantic image of pleasantly plump, empire-obsessed dowager Queen Victoria on a Star Trek: The Next Generation style screen:

We are very amused.

The story follows hired killer Sebastian as he escapes a wrongful imprisonment for his open homosexuality and hunts down those who threw him in a deep, dark dungeon. He has no compunctions about taking life as he traipses through his effete milieu, crossing paths with characters that also fall outside the strictures of that era’s morality. Really, the gayness of the story is unrelenting, assuredly making it somewhat unique in the annals of comicdom. What other book would have a cold-blooded killer’s first act upon fleeing his straw and stone cell be getting his chest shaved by his bare-breasted maids?:

You can find all three issues of this early Vertigo mini collected in a trade. It’s different, I’ll give it that, and that might make it a worthwhile buy, especially for the Morrison-philes out there.

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