Since I’m moving this weekend and am away next weekend, this week’s post will be shorter than usual, while next week’s will be a ‘rerun’ from GraphiContent. For now, though, I’ve chosen the first Vertigo work by a creator who now works almost exclusively with that imprint. Spoilers, of course.
Fight for Tomorrow by Brian Wood, Denys Cowan, and Kent Williams is a six-issue mini published by Vertigo back at the end of 2002 and, then, reprinted five years later in trade form. The plot revolves around Cedric, a young man who was kidnapped as a child and raised in a camp that trains kids to fight, so that bets can be placed on said fights. He eventually escaped with Christy, a girl from the camp that he grew up with. The story begins with Christy having left him a month or so back, and Cedric unable to get past that. He enters an underground fight and thinks he sees her there. It turns out that she’s now with Sivan, the man who runs the underground fights and was Ced’s bully while growing up. Sivan was the son of the man who ran the camps and liked to pick on Cedric, so seeing Christy with him… well, it hurts Ced. Throw in another girl, her little brother, and the righteous cause of liberating other children currently being held by the same group and you’ve got a pretty solid story.
I hadn’t read this since first buying it when it came out. I think I actually got the series after it all came out — or, at least, after three or four issues had come out. It didn’t wow me, but I enjoyed it. I didn’t think it really carried six issues and was a bit too meandering, a bit too steeped in itself. Brian Wood was still in his early days of writing and not entirely comfortable yet. The art by Denys Cowan and Kent Williams is fantastic. I’m not as familiar with Cowan’s work elsewhere as I’d like to be, but it’s obvious that Williams’s inking really shapes the look of the art. It’s loose and sketchy, unafraid to depict things as ugly and condusive to movement. The fight scenes are brutal and quick. The characters don’t look attractive. The art carries the book a bit at times.
I’m not sure I have a lot to say about Fight for Tomorrow. There are a few things that jump out at me. The first being that I mostly identify with Cedric when he agonises over Christy — and her newfound relationship with Sivan. I don’t know if this is a guy thing, but the idea that the woman you love will not just reject you but will then choose the guy you hate more than anyone else is very unnerving. I’m sure many of us geeky types experienced this when younger, that popular girl you had a crush on choosing some popular guy who treated you like shit (I didn’t, but no one really treated me like shit in high school, but I totally get that idea). Do women have that same hang-up, because I’ve only really seen it expressed in male characters? That unique gut-wrenching feeling of some asshole with the object of your affection. And I use the word ‘object’ very purposefully since the feeling does stem from a sense of ownership. Is that sense of ownership why women don’t fall prey to this hang-up? Is it the natural male competitiveness? To bring it to comic book terms: “Sins Past” in Amazing Spider-Man — how many fans were pissed because Gwen had another man’s kids or because she had Norman Osborn, Peter’s msot hated enemy’s kids? It’s an ‘anyone but him!’ feeling that is only partly about the woman. And there are varying degrees of this situation depending on how close the guy and girl are, how much she’s aware of the guy’s hatred of the other guy, etc.
In Fight for Tomorrow, Christy seemingly betrays Cedric in the worst way possible, because she was already romantically involved with him and then leaves him, quite possibly, to be with Sivan, who she knows is the man Ced hates more than anyone else. It’s a harsh situation, but reading it really made me question my feelings on the matter, and why it bothered me so much that she would do this. I’ve never really experienced this situation and yet the idea of it freaks me out. Talk about messed up insecurities… Wood dwells on this throughout and does so with skill, first making you sympathise with Ced and, by the end, disliking him for his obsession. It ends with Christy laying it out for him, about how she left because they don’t work, how they’ll always remind each other of their childhoods, and how the thing with Sivan was unrelated to him… and not exactly voluntary. Cedric, so obsessed with her and the idea of revenge, doesn’t notice what he’s got around him. The switch is done with a lot of skill — and raises that fantastic question from High Fidelity: why do you want her back? What’s so great about this girl? The funny thing is, for many of us geeks in high school with the crush on the girl that will never go out with us, there isn’t anything that great about her. If we actually got a chance with her, we’d probably realise that there isn’t much there beyond a very superficial attraction (Freaks and Geeks dealt with this concept perfectly). That isn’t the case with Christy, on the surface, but, when you think about it, it applies to her almost equally as well. While Cedric and Christy have tons in common, it’s not shared interests or desires, it’s shared experiences, ones that made them rely on each other and grow closer, but also misled them about their feelings. That doesn’t mean they wouldn’t work or aren’t truly in love, but they’ve experienced so little without the other that it’s impossible to say if what they have is really love or if it’s just the default setting of their lives. Christy, mature enough to know all this, leaves and this story is about Cedric never coming to that conclusion until it’s spelled out for him.
Fight for Tomorrow is also a meditation on violence, but I’m not sure anything beyond the standard concepts is dealt with here. Cedric is torn between his Buddhism and his life of violence. The only scene that really stands out is, at one point, Cedric deals with his frustrations by working out with a punching bag, and comments that no matter how hard he tries to meditate and clear his mind that way, violence is the only thing that does it. This hints at the inner nature of Cedric, who we assume is violent only because of his upbringing, but maybe he’s not. Maybe he has natural leanings in that direction that his childhood simply augmented. He is a brilliant fighter, which suggests something beyond training and more like natural talent/desire. That subtle suggestion is probably the only interesting thing about violence here.
Fight for Tomorrow is a very solid read, but a lesser Brian Wood work. There’s a reason that it doesn’t jump out at many when discussing his body of work. That said, I think anyone who picks it up will enjoy it.
As I said, next week, expect a post from GraphiContent, although, honestly, a lot of you won’t have read it, so it will be new. As well, next Sunday, I should also begin another little project here at Comics Should be Good that relates to my reread reviews, but done in a different way. I can’t wait myself. Now, off to the cottage.
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