Posted on May 4, 2009 by Monica Valentinelli
Think of a world where an alien virus is released; that virus changes you–inside and out. Maybe you get the Black Queen, so you die. Horribly. Maybe you pull a Joker. Mutated and deformed, you stick to a place called “Jokertown.” If you’re lucky, you pull an Ace. You’re a hero–you’re supposed to be the good guy. But are you?
In this series of the George RR Martin comic, Wild Cards The Hard Call is a six volume set. My review focuses on the first, three issues.
I had the pleasure of meeting George RR Martin in person; speaking with him on a panel at a small convention, he was passionate and explained how his “shared world” settings worked. One of the things that really struck me about him, was the way he talked about the quality of the writing. George handpicks writers for his series and takes special care to ensure that writers are perfect for the “Wild Cards” world that started all the way back in 1983. The care and attention to detail really shows; coupled with artwork by Eric Battle and Daniel Abraham’s writing, this series has all the makings of something you’ll want to collect, re-read, and preserve.
This re-imagining of Wild Cards takes place in New York City; nothing is held back when we’re first introduced to this world. It is terrible, it is gross, it is horrifying–because humans have changed and when the virus hits, the roulette wheel spins your fate. You have no say in it.
The Hard Call is told from an Ace’s point-of-view named Alex. We begin in Alex’s present, but soon learn about his past. He encountered the virus at his brother’s school. His brother Jack wasn’t as lucky as he was.
ALEX: He was too heavy… I’d carried him to bed before when he fell asleep watching movies until two in the morning. I’d carried him when he was soaking wet from falling in the swimming pool with all his clothes on. “Come on, Jack. It’s okay. I’m here now. It’s okay.” I knew what he felt like, even dead weight. This was different. It was wrong. — SOURCE: George RR Martin’s Wild Cards Comic: THE HARD CALL Issue #1
This first issue delves deep into Alex’s personal horror for there, after everything is said and done, he’s the one to survive. He’s the Ace. This comic sets the tone for the series, as Alex know has to deal with what comes next. We start to see a little bit of the secondary plot emerge, related to the Sleeper.
According to the fansite Wild Cards Online, Croyd Crenson, the Sleeper is “the first victim of the virus the reader meets and identifies with, his affliction means he gets to experience life both as ace and joker, and he has the uncanny ability to be present at just about every major event chronicled in the series.”
We meet Crenson again in the second issue, where we find out what happened to the other people around Alex when the virus hit. Some died, some turned into Jokers, but there were a few Aces like Alex. In this comic, suicidal thoughts run rampant as Alex and another little girl, a Joker named Kira, aren’t sure what to do with their lives anymore. Here Crenson’s path intersects with Alex’s, and for the first time Alex hears a little bit of hope from an unlikely source.
In the third issue of the Wildcards series, the story really starts to emerge. The other Ace used to be someone the other kids used to pick on, but after the virus hits, he has the ability to teleport — and a smartass attitude to boot. Something strange hits the Jokertown clinic, and Alex goes off on his own to find Crenson.
I really enjoyed reading these comics because the writing was great, and the artistic style really enhanced the chaotic view of what the Wild Cards are all about. Flipping through these comics was a lot like watching a roulette wheel spin — where it stops is anyone’s guess.
In addition to the comics, I’d like to point out that Green Ronin Publishing is offering the George R.R. Martin series in a tabletop game format. If you like George R.R. Martin’s work or are remotely curious about Wild Cards, I recommend picking up a few of the comics for a great introduction.