A Post-Slack Distopia Populated by Chasing Amy Types

Detour by Ed Brubaker

Imagine a future that’s neither apocalyptic nor idyllic — the only thing different is that the stuff that sucks now will suck a little bit harder.

The first issue of Detour, a new series by Ed Brubaker, takes place a few years after 2000, in a city that endures daily earthquakes and where oxygen has to be pumped into the houses. This isn’t dumb-ass, flying-saucer sci-fi. This is a post-slack distopia populated by Chasing Amy types; what makes it special is the eerie feeling that in Detour, the world isn’t necessarily worth saving.

Detour has an unlikely protagonist in Christopher, a bespectacled twerp who shares an apartment with Spool, a nomadic weirdo, and Theo and Allison, who like to walk around naked when they think nobody’s home. Chris is constipated, self-righteous, penny-pinching, a whiner with an inheritance who never leaves the apartment—the kind of guy anyone who’s ever had a roommate automatically wants to throttle.

Spool collects the corpses of pigeons that are mysteriously dropping dead from the mini-earthquakes that are destroying one block at a time in the city that is, according to Brubaker, “just San Francisco with a few touches of my own paranoia.” Brubaker, whose previous books include the Lowlife series and the exquisite one-off At the Seams, has an uncanny ear for dialogue and a sharp skewer for the pretensions that have managed to endure past the millennium.

One of Detour’s sharpest scenes shows Chris flashing back to his college transformation into wussy activist at the feet of a girl in a “No Blood For Oil” shirt. “When the whole thing blew up in his face, he awoke to find himself the head of a committee fighting to ban smoking in films.” Brubaker has fun with Chris, whose face is drawn so pouty a reader would swear his whine is audible—seldom has a comic book hero been so satisfying to hate. Defends Brubaker, “I’m not unsympathetic to Chris’s ideals. It’s just so satisfying to make fun of self-appointed preachers.”

Detour makes effective use of silhouette and the heavy blacks evoke the suffocating, oxygen-deprived near-future Brubaker envisions, a world in which Chris spies on his roommates through peepholes in the ceiling. Creepy as that sounds, who hasn’t dreamed of knowing what his roommates really think about him? And that’s the point of a story that depicts a grim future that’s uncomfortably like the present. “In the book, it starts to dawn on people that these earthquakes are a sign that the world is ending. Given the cast of Detour, maybe that’s not such a bad thing.”

Detour by Ed Brubaker (Alternative Press)

Ken Kurson

Ken Kurson is the founder of the Globe suite of sites. He is also the founder of Green Magazine and greenmagazine.com and covered finance for Esquire magazine for almost 20 years. Ken is the author of several books, including the New York Times No. 1 bestseller Leadership.

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