Peeking in on "Empty Chamber" with A. David Lewis

The majority of us live relatively anonymous lives. We go about our business, spending time with friends and getting our work done while hopefully not attracting any unwanted attention. But what if one day your ordinary life becomes of intense interest to the entire U.S. Army? Life would suddenly become a lot more interesting.

Writer A. David Lewis and artist Jason Copland explore that possibility in the pages of the two-issue mini-series "Empty Chamber," in stores today from Silent Devil. We caught up with Lewis for a quick chat about the book, as well as a look at an impressive trailer developed as a promotional tool for the series.

To begin with, we need to know what "Empty Chamber" is all about. "A slam-bang, hyperkinetic action-espionage adventure - the fate of America, from sea to shining sea, hanging in the balance. Patriotic without the jingoism, exciting without the simplifying, and flat-out fun," said Lewis.

"Seriously, coming off of brain-benders and deeply academic works like 'Mortal Coils' and 'The Lone and Level Sands,' I wanted to aim for something a bit more hip and modern," continued Lewis. "In teaming with Jason Copland, I don't think we've sacrificed intelligence or storytelling by any means. But I did finally get to take my scholarly glasses off and strap on some boxing gloves, you know?"

The series stars Aamer "Matt" Mahtganee who yesterday was interesting to absolutely nobody. Today, he's being pursued by the entire U.S. Army. "And some of them aren't exactly working for the U.S. itself," explained Lewis. "Renegade General Julian Fleischer has taken a small force loyal only to him underground, and their plans were uncovered by Matt's former foster brother James Starzwick. James, however, is now in a coma (thanks to the General) and cannot explain his coded messages revealing Fleischer's plan. So, the government, in order to take down one of their own, must reach out to mercenary Samantha "Mad Sam" Maddox and have her bring Matt in unharmed. She'll have agent Kelly Alexander watching over her, and Alexander will have project head Colonel Ellis to answer to if they should fail --oh, and they'll also have a chemically infected nation on their hands as well."

The high action and intrigue of "Empty Chamber" was influenced by a variety of well know spy films, as well as some great crime and adventure comics. "It was a weird recipe. 'The Bourne Identity' and 'Bourne Supremacy' mixed a little with 'Goldeneye.' And, from comics, there's a bit of 'Whiteout,' 'Queen & Country,' 'Global Frequency' and even 'Planetary' thrown in. (No wonder the Colonel's named Ellis, right?) When the idea first percolated, I was pitching in on Red Eye Press' 'Valentine' and living in post-9/11 Washington DC, so those likely poured in as well. And, strangely, the Discovery Channel, too. Folks who read the book will see why."

Lewis and Copland previously worked together on an issue of "Mortal Coils." Originally, Lewis and Copland had plans to work on another comic set in a futuristic dystopia. While they both liked the concept and may come back to it at a later date, it wasn't right for what the duo wanted to do today. "We started looking at other projects, and 'Empty Chamber' had been in my desk drawer for a few months, I think, as a pitch," explained Lewis. "Jason took to it like a college kid to iPods and we were off to the races!"

Once production began, it was time to find a home for the book. It was shopped around and Silent Devil publisher Christian Beranek pounced on it. "Christian and I met locally when I was living in DC. He and I enjoyed a couple of meals with other comic book creators in the area, and somehow I was brought aboard as editor for SD's 'Dracula Vs. King Arthur,' explained Lewis. "From there, Christian backed my brief online comic with Chris Burke, 'Out Of Sequence,' which unfortunately petered out; so, of course, they were naturally on our list of imprints to peek at future proposals.

Lewis admits that when he writes - like most writers - he writes for himself, but hopes that fans of the comics that influenced the book and those who like thrillers will embrace "Empty Chamber." "When I wrote 'Empty Chamber,' I was thirsty for some smart action," explained Lewis. "Adventure's great, but only when it's held up with a pretty intelligent structure. At the same time, nothing kills action quicker than eggheaded snobbery that flies over its audience's head. 'Empty Chamber' is an attempt to walk that middle route: It's meant to be sharp.

"Also, frankly, it's slightly a reaction to America's new xenophobia. (Er, that word screams 'eggheaded snobbery,' doesn't it? Oops.) Understand, I'm all for America's safety (as is Jason - even though he's a Canadian), but we're getting remarkably short-sighted by thinking that most threats come from outside our borders. There is plenty of bad here at home that needs to be dealt with. Therefore, it's no accident that the threat in 'Empty Chamber' is purely domestic; the only foreigner featured in the story, frankly, is Matt, our protagonist!

"(Disclaimer: There's also plenty of good here in the U.S. The good guys are American, too. I guess, like the book itself, I like to play in grays.)"

You may notice up top on the right hand side a link to a trailer for "Empty Chamber." It's an exciting trailer, repurposing the printed work by taking static pages and animating them to great effect. "That's all Christian Beranek's doing, along with the talents of M. Sean McManus," said Lewis. "Sean had already brought this impressive format to the promotion of 'The Last Sin Of Mark Grimm,' and I was excited, when bringing 'Empty Chamber' aboard Silent Devil to have the same treatment applied to our book. Damn impressive, ain't it? It's like a comic book rippling before your very eyes!"

"Empty Chamber" can be found in finer comic shops nationwide today from Silent Devil.

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