Monday, February 10, 2003

The Sandman Presents: Bast #2: Review

So far, this series hasn’t really done much to grab my attention… and that’s pretty bad coming from someone who cites Neil Gaiman as one of his biggest philosophical influences.

It isn’t that the ideas and scope are not as grand and gigantic as when Gaiman addressed them years ago. They are. It is not that the story doesn’t involve magic realms, gods and wonders a plenty. All that is here. What is not here are characters we care about.

Fans of The Sandman are familiar with the conceit that gods use belief as nourishment and that gods who are not regularly worshipped begin to lose form and power. Such is the case with Bast, the ancient Egyptian goddess of cats who is too stubborn to fade into nothingness and is looking for a way to restore the good old days when cats were revered by Man and she with them. She is going about this, through means that were unclear in the first issue and are not much clearer at the end of this, through a troubled young woman named Lucy.

Lucy is probably the most sympathetic character in the story, being smart and sensitive and trapped in a small town full of moronic, drunken religious fanatics. (Well, I sympathize with that. I do live in Texas, after all.) Sadly Lucy dies at the end of the first issue and most of the interest in the story died for me as well. While the “troubled teenage girl” is hardly a new character in comics, the idea of a troubled person turning to another religion (much less cat-worship) IS something that is rarely explored in the comics medium.

With Lucy dead, all we are left with is the concerned best friend, the drunken and abusive father, the enigmatic Lady Bast and the ghost of the kitten Lucy’s father killed in a moment of highly uncredible melodrama to act out the action. And nothing of note concerning the plot occurs until the last three pages, the brunt of this middle chapter being devoted to Bast’s telling of how things used to be in the days of Egypt and why she wants it back the way it was.

The artwork is fine but doesn’t leap off the page. At times, it does not seem to fit the story. It is hard to say what the age of Lucy and her friend are, with their looking like they are in their mid-teens but making references to 7th graders being a threat. And at one point the ghost kitten asks Bast what is happening to her face when there is nothing obviously wrong with her face in the artwork.

I’ll probably pick up Bast #3 to keep the set together and see how it ends, but this is a far cry from The Sandman books from which it was inspired. It is even a far cry from more recent The Sandman Presents mini-series like The Thessailiad and Dead Boy Detectives.

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