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NUM-INOUS COMICS PT. 2

This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

NEAR-MYTHS: TONGUE*LASH (1996)

On the basis of this cover alone, I wanted TONGUE*LASH to qualify as a mythcomic--



--simply because it's a clever inversion of this famous movie poster.



Unfortunately, though TONGUE*LASH has a lot of clever concepts, none of them cohere into the form of a myth.

Writers Randy and Jean-Marc L'Officer and artist Dan Taylor concocted a world that looks rather like the ancient world of the Mayans somehow survived into a technological far-future era, one where men all wear modern-day suits, women wear hooker-outfits, and some obscure sect, "the Begetters," can produce animal-human hybrids.

Taylor's art is a lovely tribute to the work of Moebius, and, as if to anticipate any possible criticisms, each of the two Dark Horse issues states on the inside cover that the comic is "inspired by" the French comics-creator. But the L'Officer brothers failed to bring all of the elements of their unique world into perspective.

TONGUE*LASH-- named for its two heroes, female "Tongue" and male "Lash"-- function as futuristic detectives. They take a case involving a low-level scandal-- that of a prostitute becoming engaged to a high-level lord-- and find themselves embroiled in a high-stakes game. The heroes don't call themselves "detectives," but "diviners." And once or twice, they're shown consulting implements that are supposed to reveal future knowledge. However, most of the time Tongue and Lash ferret out info using the same tactics as mundane sleuths: asking inappropriate questions, roughing up lowlifes. So I can't help but wonder-- why call them "diviners" at all?

The L'Officiers spend a lot of time coming up with Mayan-sounding (or Mayan-derived) terms for professions, cultural practices, and so on. However, though one character mentions making a blood sacrifice to the "twin gods," there's no consistent sense of what role religion plays in this world. The plotters known as "the Begetters" are on the outs with the current government, apparently because the rulers think it's OK to have hybridized citizens (slaves?)  who have animal-heads, but the rulers don't like the fact that the Begetters can create animal-human hybrids who look human. Oh, and there are also some never-specified rules about who can or cannot use a special process called "Metatime," that allows one to enter another temporal plane-- but the authors choose to remain mum on what if any metaphysical significance this process has.

I suppose the L'Officiers were within their rights to keep the relationship of Tongue and Lash ambiguous, a la Steed and Mrs. Peel. However, the two detectives aren't exactly sources of sparkling wit, so they're not any more interesting than their under-described environment (though Tongue, rather like Mrs. Peel, gets the best fight-scenes).

I've heard it said that there's at least one more Tongue*Lash adventure out there, but I have not encountered it. And if there's any special significance to the masks worn by many male characters-- Lash's looks like the famed "gimp mask" in particular-- I couldn't find said significance in the story.


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