Monday, February 09, 2009


Secret Services: The Lodge

We've almost reached the last of the Secret Services, with just a scant few to go. Now we're up to the Image Comics ongoing series, Proof, created by Alex Grecian and Riley Rossmo.

Image has really become Secret Services central these days. They've got The Perhapanauts with BEDLAM, the Occult Crimes Taskforce (about which more shortly), and Proof with its Secret Service, the Lodge.

What is the Lodge?

Well, here's how the book was encapsulated in the pages of the recent Monster Pile-Up.
In 1969, government agents captured Bigfoot. Far from being an ignorant savage, Bigfoot was smarter and more sophisticated than his human captors. Three years later the United States and Canada formed a special task force to find and protect other "cryptids": endangered animals that may not actually exist. This task force is called the Lodge and its star agent is Bigfoot. He now goes by the name Proof.
On the pages of Grecian's website there's a slightly more thematic description of the series:
Between the world we know and the world we don't want to know about, there are endangered species that the scientific community refuses to recognize.

Who's watching The Loch Ness Monster?

Or the dinosaurs hidden deep in the African jungle?

Or the Puerto Rican Chupacabra?

Proof is.

Special Agent John "Proof" Prufrock, also known as Bigfoot, works for The Lodge, an organization dedicated to preserving and protecting "monsters" from the threat of humanity.

If you believe in monsters, you need Proof.

So that's the Lodge in a nutshell. Secret government agency, dedicated to locating and protecting monsters, with Bigfoot as their principle field agent.

The series Proof opens with an FBI agent, Ginger Brown, encountering something in the course of a seemingly routine hostage negotiation that defies description--a golem. Agent Brown dutifully reports this to her superior officer, who thinks she's stressed and hallucinating and gives her a few days off to get her head together. She spends her free time investigating the golem, and when she gets back to the office finds herself with a new assignment, and orders to report to something called "the Lodge."

(A young attractive law enforcement agent accidentally stumbles across the supernatural, and ends up recruited into a shadowy organization that polices things beyond the reach of mundane agencies. Quick, as I describing Proof? Or Torchwood? Or Ultraviolet? Or maybe Occult Crimes Taskforce? Okay, that last one wasn't fair, since I haven't yet got around to summarizing Occult Crimes Taskforce, but you get the gist. This is pretty familiar territory to anyone who's read more than a few of these Secret Services. Proof goes them one better, though, by quickly introducing another law enforcement agent who accidentally stumbles across the supernatural and ends up recruited by the Lodge, and sets him up as a potential love interest for Ginger.)

The star of the book, in more ways than one, is John "Proof" Prufrock, the Bigfoot. Back in his "circus days" he was known as Gulliver, but we still know very little about his background. We've learned that he was discovered by Lewis & Clark in 1805, and brought back to President Thomas Jefferson, who would go on to raise the young Bigfoot, teaching him manners and decorum. Just what happened between the time he left Jefferson's care and was "captured" by government agents in 1969, we don't know, but it likely involved the search for more of his own kind. Proof has yet to meet another Bigfoot, though tantalizing clues have been dropped as the series progresses about what the others might be like.

There are echoes of other Secret Services in Proof. The "monster-hunting monster as agent of shadowy government agency" is certainly reminiscent of Hellboy and the BPRD, and of Big(foot) and BEDLAM for that matter. The notion of hunting down the "real" animals and beings behind crytozoological reports is similar to the mission statements of Section Zero and BEDLAM (and Cartoon Network's Secret Saturdays, as well, which was one of the catalysts for this rundown of secret services in the first place). But for all of that, I think that Grecian and Rossmo manage to make the idea their own, and make Proof very much its own book.

I think part of the appeal is that the creators of the book have put a lot of care and thought into working out the mechanics of their hidden world. Here's now Grecian describes it in the introduction to the first trade collection:
That's what sets Proof apart from all the other books in which people interact with monsters... Everything between the covers of Proof could happen, could exist. Okay, we'll admit that it's all more than a little unlikely, but Riley and I have a real-world explanation for everything here. There's no magic. There's no futuristic technology. There might be other dimensions or ghosts or mammals that can puff themselves up like blowfish, but those things might actually, somehow, have a basis in fact.
There are fairies in the world of Proof, but they are wild animals, effectively creepy little "piranha with wings" that aren't about to grant wishes. There's a goat-sucker, but it's nothing like the charmingly cute Choopie of The Perhapanauts. There are also animals believed by the world to be extinct, that survive in the nature preserves of the Lodge--dinosaurs, dodos, and the like.

The individual issues contain all sorts of nifty extras, articles about cryptids and such, back-up stories that show what supporting characters were doing while the main action was occurring. There was also a serialized story by Kelly Tindall featuring a leopard-headed adventurer and supernatural investigator, Archie Snow, which deserves a book of its own. I'm considering switching entirely from trades to individual issues on this one, because the trades only collect the main stories and the key backups, without the additional goodies.

There are sample pages online, if that will serve to sway any of you to check the book out.


Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by 

Blogger. Isn't yours?