A review a day: <i>The Adventures of Unemployed Man</i>

It's propaganda! Yay, propaganda!

The Adventures of Unemployed Man, which I received in the mail, will set you back $14.99 if you choose to buy it. Little, Brown and Company published it, and it was written by Erich Origen and Gan Golan, who got some good talent to draw the book. Ramona Fradon, Rick Veitch, Michael Netzer, Benton Jew, Thomas Yeates, Shawn Martinbrough, Terry Beatty, Joe Rubinstein, Thomas Mauer, Clem Robins, and Tom Orzechowski are the pencilers, inker, and letterers involved in the project. The artists tend to keep their styles similar, so the book has a unified look, but you can still see some differences in the artwork.

The styles mesh because it's a very retro kind of project, so I'm sure the artists tried hard to make sure it looked like a Golden/Silver Age book, and in that, they succeeded.

I don't really want to write about the art, even though it's by far the best part of the book. I don't even really want to review this, because it's one of the most offensive comic I've ever read (and I've read Faust!), and I'm on the authors' "side," as much as I can be. You see, Origen and Golan are pretty dyed-in-the-wool leftists, and this book is a screed against everyone and everything that they believe caused the financial meltdown in the United States. We begin with Bruce Paine, a millionaire through inheritance and secret identity of "motivational vigilante" the Ultimatum, who drives around the city in a Hummer telling citizens that they need to stop blaming others for their problems and start taking some responsibilty. He discovers that one of his companies is not paying high enough wages for people to live on, but when he proposes doing something about it to the board (capping executive pay), he gets fired. Of course, he can't find a job anywhere, and he eventually meets up with a bunch of other heroes of the downtrodden. They fight against the Invisible Hand and its allies, including the forces of evil capitalism - the Just Us League - and other nefarious baddies. In the end, the heroes and the people just need to unite to defeat the bad guys, fix the social safety net, provide universal health care, and make everything better. Isn't that swell?

Origen and Golan have a few - very few - clever satirical touches in their comic, but otherwise, this is as ham-fisted an examination of the financial crisis as you're going to see. On a purely theoretical level, I agree with most of what Golan and Origen say, especially when it comes to healthcare. The fact that we treat health insurance as a business is one of the most idiotic things in our society, and I worked in health insurance, so I know how cutthroat it can be and how asinine that is. And yes, the way banks gambled with money over the past 15-30 years is obscene and should be stopped.

But Origan and Golan are so blinded by their ideology that they fail to recognize that maybe, just maybe, things aren't as simple as "conservatives = evil; liberals = good." Whenever we hear about the financial meltdown, no one - NO ONE - ever blames the consumer. Oh, the poor consumers - they were just led astray by evil banks!!!! My wife has worked in mortgages for a decade, dealing mostly with fraud. Fraud on the part of the borrowers, mind you. People lie all the time on their mortgage applications. They lie about income, they lie about what they're going to use the property for, they lie about other property they own. Sure, the banks shouldn't be so cavalier about giving out loans, but if the borrowers lie and then default on the loans, how is that the fault of the "evil banks"? So many people want to buy a 5-bedroom, 4000-sq. ft. house their first time out, and they take out exorbitant mortgages that they know they can't afford, assuming that they will make more money in the future and be able to pay it off. Everyone wants everything NOW, and while evil corporations might take advantage of that, if you tell me that the consumer is so weak-willed that they can't resist that kind of advertising, I'll say they deserve to go bankrupt. Throughout this financial meltdown, my wife and I haven't had that many difficulties. Why? Because we don't live beyond our means. We live in a house that we can afford, and even though it's too small for us now that the kids are older, we make it work because we can't afford to buy a new one. We don't just mortgage our future because we "need" a new house. That's ridiculous. We bought our cars (we didn't lease them, which is almost the dumbest thing you can do, financially), paid them off, and didn't immediately go out and upgrade - our cars are fine, so why would need new ones? We have a high credit card balance, unfortunately, but we've been paying it off steadily and don't charge lots of junk. I know we've been lucky in that my wife didn't lose her job, but other than that, we've made it through because we didn't spend like idiots before the bad times came, so we were better prepared when the bad times did come.

It's great that Origen and Golan think the solution is good old-fashioned Americans working together, but as always with anything that society needs, they don't really wonder who's going to pay for it. Well, of course the rich have to pay for it, right? I'm for a graduated tax code with no loopholes as much as anyone, but how much is too much? If you raise the taxes on the rich too much, does the incentive to make more money go away? I've mentioned Mia's physical therapist before, because he's a conservative with a lot of interesting ideas and I like to talk to him about politics. He runs two small businesses, so he knows how Obama's tax policies are affecting him. I haven't spoken sufficiently to him about it to find out whether they're onerous or not, but he has alluded to the convoluted restrictions that the Obama presidency has placed on small businesses. I don't know if that's accurate, but if it is, why would you start a small business if you're just going to be taxed into oblivion? Golan and Origen imply that jobs get oursourced solely because the evil companies want to maximize their profits, and while I believe that's pretty crucial, they don't get into the fact that unions have become almost as adversarial toward the "common people" as evil corporations, and their intransigence "forced" the companies to seek employees elsewhere. It's implied that education funding gets axed almost randomly, but that's not totally true, either, and once again, unions must share some of the blame with the heartless conservative legislative bastards.

They blame illegal immigration on NAFTA, which is fine, but ignore the fact that Mexico is pretty much a failed state at this point. There's so much in the book like this, and it bugs me - this is a comic about a ridiculously complex issue with many different permutations and threads, and Origen and Golan simplify it so much as to make whatever commentary they come up absolutely meaningless. This is a comic for someone who has already decided that everything that's wrong in the country is due to Republicans and enjoy the fact that Golan and Origen just back them up and don't challenge that pre-fabricated opinion. As much as I blame Republicans for what has happened in the country, I blame Democrats as well, and I also blame the salt-of-the-earth Americans that Origen and Golan love so much. Many commentators on the financial meltdown seem to have a much higher opinion of the common people than the common people deserve. The common people, remember, make stuff like Dancing With the Stars and The Da Vinci Code huge hits.

There's really nothing to recommend this book as far as the writing or the story goes. It's a fun book to look at, and the artists really do some tremendous work, with some very nice double-page spreads, grand splash pages, good layouts, and even some subtlety, which is jarring when you consider how absolutely unsubtle the writing is. If you absolutely, honestly believe that only Republican capitalists are to blame for every single one of America's problems, you might enjoy this book, because it will simply affirm what you already believe. If you want to read a challenging and complex tract about America's financial meltdown, I don't know where you would start, but it certainly wouldn't be here. The Adventures of Unemployed Man is dull, obvious, pedantic, simplistic, one-sided, and boring. Oh well.

Tomorrow: Curing a serial killer? Unpossible!

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