Peter Milligan and Davide Gianfelice’s Greek Street: Blood Calls for Blood

greek-street-1Greek Street: Blood Calls for Blood is the first compilation of the individual numbers of the comic series. It offers another retelling of the Greek myths, translated to the seamy underbelly of a contemporary city — in this case, London’s Soho. The center of action, so to speak, is a strip club — the strippers serve as the Chorus. The main story arc is the story of Oedipus — in this case, Eddie, just released from the orphanage and left to his own devices. So of course almost the first thing he does is to pick up a woman in a bar and go home with her. Her name is Jo, and if you remember your Sophocles at all, you know that’s short for “Jocasta” — Oedipus’ mother. Also dragged into this narrative is the story of Agamemnon — Lord Menon of Ilium. Medea serves as the monster for the story, appearing out of nowhere and wreaking havoc on whatever poor mortal happens to be in the way. There’s a young policeman named Dedalus who gets caught up in the remains of Medea’s activities. The Fates are here — three women dressed in white who tend to appear and disappear without warning — and the Furies, in this case the crime family that runs the area, named “Furey.”

Let me backtrack a bit here: this is not a “retelling” of the tragedies of Sophocles, or Aeschylus, or Euripides. Milligan has taken elements and seems to be recombining them into — something. There is no mention, for example, of Eddie’s father, so that the blame for his being sent to an orphanage rests solely on his mother, who in the original story was pretty much blameless, which made the tragedy all the more stark. Cassandra, rather than being part of Agamemnon’s booty from the sack of Troy, is his daughter, kept upstairs because she’s embarrassingly crazy. Medea is not human at all, merely a ravening monster whose only impulse is to kill — we get no backstory on her, at least not so far, nothing of Jason’s betrayal or her revenge.

It all leads to a somewhat disjointed narrative, fragments of known stories wrenched out of their original context and recast as elements of another story. I’m certainly not against retellings — some of our greatest literature is retellings of older stories — but I wonder about retelling all of the Greek myths and legends at the same time. Well, this is only volume 1, so I guess we’ll have to see whether Milligan pulls it off. It does begin to gather some momentum of its own toward the end, a little more coherence — but it’s too soon to tell how that will turn out.

Davide Gianfelice’s drawing for this one is pretty much on target — his style is rough and fairly angular but still maintains enough finesse to become very expressive. Layouts are nothing terribly inventive, but they do keep the narrative moving. Patricia Mulvihill’s color is also right on target, a range of fairly somber grays and browns that reinforces the mood without taking on too much weight itself.

So, we have the beginnings of a new mix of the ancient Greeks in all their bloody glory. It’s kind of a choppy beginning, and I could wish that the blood were a little more metaphorical, but it’s an interesting start.

(Vertigo, 2010)

About Robert Tilendis

Robert M. Tilendis lives a deceptively quiet life. He has made money as a dishwasher, errand boy, legal librarian, arts administrator, shipping expert, free-lance writer and editor, and probably a few other things he’s tried very hard to forget about. He has also been a student of history, art, theater, psychology, ceramics, and dance. Through it all, he has been an artist and poet, just to provide a little stability in his life. Along about January of every year, he wonders why he still lives someplace as mundane as Chicago; it must be that he likes it there.

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