The Homeland Directive
written by Robert Venditti
illustrated by Mike Huddleston
Political intrigue bores the pants off of me. Slap a flag on the cover of a graphic novel, or a White House, or a guy in a suit with obvious political alignments, and I reach for guys in spandex instead. In the case of The Homeland Directive, I’m glad I didn’t.
Part X-Files (minus the aliens) and part Conspiracy Theory, The Homeland Directive weaves the tale of a strange illness overcoming the United States. How is it being spread? How is this localized to the US? Is it being controlled? Who can stop the plague?
These are all questions that beg for more than 148 pages, and could easily stretch out into a fantastic epic in the vein of Y: The Last Man. Instead, Robert Venditti keeps it short, sweet, and full of action. While the potential for overcomplication exists at every plot twist, Venditti never maintains an unnecessary level of ambiguity. He keeps the reader moving along, coming back for more, and rarely confused. There’s plenty of mystification, but effective storytelling removes that frustrating feeling of futility when one completely loses track of a chain of events and characters—which is all too common in this genre. There are no superheroes or ultra-weapons to save the day. It’s just humans trying to out-think and out-race one another, and somehow, it’s still really exciting.
Mike Huddleston’s artwork doesn’t immediately make an impact. It’s a collage of many different styles and elements: screenprinting, ink, photographs, digital manipulation, and lots of old fashioned markers and paint. As the pages progress, this artwork is so effectively delivered that every panel is a story cue. Minimalist backgrounds convey settings without detailing the actual details of the scene, and splashes of color are a perfect stand-in for drawings of flashy club lights, while a dirty motel is wet smears of paint. It’s these powers of observation, both visual and emotional, that Huddleston uses to seamlessly make these events, many of which are intense conversations rather than gun battles, compelling and convincing. Collage has been used in comics since the days of Jack Kirby (and likely before that as well), mastered by Dave McKean, and it’s not easy to manage. It’s a perfect complement to the hazy, paranoid atmosphere of The Homeland Directive. After you’ve been through a few pages, the total impact of this virtuoso style sets in.
Guns, blood, disease and mild profanity can be found in this story, though it’s unlikely that it would hold much interest for the pre-teen crowd anyhow. Unless, of course, your pre-teens are thrilled by the hidden evils of the US government and localized pandemics. Anything is possible.