Reporter Malcolm Hillard's journey into the Amazon Jungle takes him deeper into the mystery of a missing American worker and the sabotage of a timber company that followed. The clues lead him to the Jatapu tribe, whose belief in a powerful Amazon spirit may hold the key to the mystery. Drugged and alone in the jungle, Malcolm comes face to face with the answers, but they aren't the ones he expects.
Posted by Steve Duin, The Oregonian
Twenty years later, they're still chopping the rain forest off at the knees, Seagle notes, clear-cutting a chunk of the jungle "roughly the size of the state of Rhode Island" in the last five months of 2008: "I don't know if it's that the reach of comics is too small, the execution is not good enough to have a real rhetorical impact, or if the mindset of comics readers is such that they don't want that kind of social critique in their escapism, though I do think that plays some part," Seagle says:
"I just don't see comics as agents of change."
If change is what you're after, a fully realized--and inspired--story is what you need, and Seagle doesn't get off to a memorable start in the first issue of this miniseries. That American worker has gone missing (or native) even as the sabotage at the timber camp has begun, and the coincidence is clumsy, at best, when Hilliard sees the American disabling a crane as soon as he reaches the camp. Seagle is equally heavy handed with his lampooning of the local Christian missionaries: "The missionaries believe that what they are doing is right--spreading Christianity to the uninformed. But in actuality, it's just more strip-mining. In this case, though, it is not timber or malachite. It's tribal religion values--and culture."
A comic has to be really special these days to get my attention. I'm hardly buying any single issues anymore because they're too expensive.
Changing the world
Interesting question about comics as an agent of change. That's what I hoped for my PEACE PARTY comics too. But I never thought it would be easy.
To have an effect, I suspect a comic book (or any popular work of art) has to have several components.
1) The comic has to hit a "sweet spot" between entertainment and message. The best comics do this.
For instance, Seagle could've presented the same message about missionaries more artfully. "While the timber harvesters cleared acre after acre, the missionaries did their own cutting and trimming. They carved out a bloody ceremony here, whittled down a heathen idol there. Soon the rough Indian bark was nothing but bits and shavings on the ground. What was left was the white, pulpy core of a man ready to be shaped."
(Okay, you still may not like this. But does anyone think Seagle's version is more entertaining than my version?)
2) The comic has to become popular enough to enter the mainstream culture in various forms. If it isn't made into a movie, a TV series, a toy line, etc., you can't expect it to reach many people.
3) You have to be committed to getting out the message beyond the immediate publication of the comic. Raising awareness of the Amazon is more like a lifetime project than a one-shot deal.
For more on the subject, see Comic Books Featuring Indians.
Below: Awesome cover. If the interior was a series of paintings like this one, I might've bought it.