Bento Review: George R.R. Martin’s Wild Cards: The Hard Call

George R.R. Martin has one really well-known creation, that being A Song of Ice and Fire that became the inspiration for Game of Thrones.  Who knows?  Another book may come out in that series eventually.

But he’s done other things too, besides what Ryan terms “sucking”.  One of his works is acting as creator/editor for the Wild Cards series, and it seems Comic Bento found a trade covering that universe from Dynamite.

A little background may be in order.  In this universe, aliens dropped a virus called the Black Queen on New York City in 1946.  Most of the people infected died a quick and horrible death.  Of those who didn’t, ninety percent became what’s called a “joker”.  Those people were horrible deformed and transformed.  The remaining handful, the “aces,” got to keep their appearances but also gained superpowers.  Martin was one of the creators involved in the concept and has acted as an editor for this series that mostly takes the form of a group of novels.  That said, he doesn’t seem to have anything to do with this comic series aside from get his name on the cover.

Watson on the cover?

This book follows two protagonists, one from the novels and one new.  The character from the novels is Croyd Crenson, AKA the Sleeper.  He was infected but his condition is a bit unstable as he gains a new set of powers and overall appearance every time he falls asleep.  His sleep cycle isn’t the same as most people, though, but he does still need to take a nap once in a while.  The other is Alex.  He’s a high school kid from Colorado where a sudden outbreak of the disease struck.  Alex and social outcast Simon became Aces.  Kira, a girl Alex had a thing for, became a Joker.  Alex’s kid brother Jack died in Alex’s arms.  Now Alex has electrical powers he can’t control and he can’t handle electronic equipment either anymore.

After Croyd becomes suspected in a nurse’s murder and Kira is kidnapped from a hospital, tough guy detective Croyd and idealistic Alex team up to find out what’s going on.  Are the two cases connected?  And what’s going on with outbreaks of the trump virus?  Trump can do one of three things to a Joker (and presumably an Ace too).  It can revert the Joker to normal.  It can do nothing.  Or it can kill the person.  There’s no predicting how an infection will work for anyone exposed to the disease…and yes, all that talk of “trump” threw me off, too.  It’s all part of a card motif.

This was actually pretty fun.  It’s got some strong language in it, so it isn’t for kids, but writer Daniel Abraham and artist Eric Battle put together a good story.  It’s nothing earth-shattering, but anyone not familiar with the “Wild Cards” concept won’t be too lost, though knowing something might help with various Easter Eggs and whatnot scattered throughout the book.  I only know a little bit myself.  And there’s a nice, but forgettable, back-up story about two Jehovah’s Witnesses trying to find some converts in the New York City neighborhood of Jokertown at the end of the thing.  Eight and a half creepy dog masks out of ten.

NEXT BOOK:  The theme for the month is “builders,” so of course Marvel is being represented by an Iron Man trade…

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