Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Inanna's Tears, from Archaia Comics
Overall I would say this comic has a mythical atmosphere. It is set in the ancient Sumer civilization of the Fertile Crescent and while the authors mentioned they did some historical research, historical accuracy was not their intended goal. And honestly I can't get too mad about lack of historical accuracy seeing as we have a hazy idea at best about what Sumerian civilization was like. The simplistic artwork actually strengthened the mythic connection in my mind and reminded me of cave paintings and early art so I would call the art style a strength rather than a weakness of this comic.
Now, since I've chosen to look at Inanna's Tears as a myth rather than historical fact, that leaves the important question what is this myth trying to say? When you get down to it all myths have an idea couched within the story. Early creation myths were mankind's attempt to understand how humanity came to exist and why we exist, while myths about George Washington's honesty and humility tried to spread a set of moral ideals to American youth. The only message I seem to get from Inanna's Tears is that any decision you take is meaningless and it left a sour taste in my mouth. To really expand on this I guess I need to spoil the plot so you've been warned.
WARNING! BELOW BE SPOILERS THE KALPAR HAS DEEMED NECESSARY FOR HIS REVIEW! WE TOLD YOU SO!
All right, so the plot of Inanna's Tears centers around the city of Birith, the holy city of the goddess Inanna, ruled over by the priesthood and lead by the high priest, or En, who also serves as Inanna's consort. While the temple of Inanna is the absolute authority within Birith, much of the power outside the city walls is in the hands of the Lugals. The Lugals, lead by a man named Belipotash, were a tribe of mountain people who once invaded Birith. In exchange for sparing the city, the Lugals were granted land allotments outside Birith and have gained considerable economic power but lack the political power and prestige of Birith's priesthood. However it appears that Belipotash may soon get the opportunity he needs.
The En of Birith, Ardru, has grown extremely old and is approaching the end of his life. Birith would normally be in a great deal of turmoil over the death of the En and the appointment of a successor, but the turmoil is increased further when Entika, a temple daughter and a woman, is appointed by Ardru to the traditionally male role of En. Aside from gender prejudice, Entika must face the problem that the old ways of doing things in Birith aren't working anymore. Fields which once provided bountiful harvests year after year have, through sustained agriculture, become leeched of all nutrients and little more than sandboxes. The city of Birith has become more and more dependent upon both trade for their survival and the records kept on clay tablets. Meanwhile an increasing number of people agree to work in the Lugal's fields as common laborers in exchange for enough food to sustain themselves. Clearly the old ways of doing things are no longer working and Entika as En is looking for alternative means to keep her city alive.
There's a subplot which I mention mainly because A. David Lewis, the man who wrote the introduction, makes a pretty big deal about it. Basically Anarin, the man in charge of the scribes who keep the records for Birith and a close friend of Entika, has been developing an alphabet so he can write down the daily prayers to Inanna. Obviously it's an important innovation and it could have long-lasting effects on Birith's society. Entika, more out of surprise than anything else, accidentally drops the clay tablet with the written prayers and shatters it. Entika interprets this as a sign of Inanna's displeasure and forbids Anarin from rewriting the prayers. Ultimately I was left with a far different impression than Mr. Lewis as to the importance of this subplot. Mr. Lewis came up with this grand thesis stating that Inanna is anti-writing and favors an oral tradition selectively revealed rather than the more egalitarian print. While I respect Mr. Lewis's opinion...I really do not see it anywhere within the story. Really what I see this event doing is pushing Entika to the position that the people of Birith must hold onto the ancient traditions and keep their faith in Inanna who will see them through these times of trouble.
The Lugals on the other hand are proponents of change, even if that change is simply placing Belipotash and his cadre in charge of Birith rather than the En and her advisers. Through a series of well-coordinated riots the Lugals manage to sow discontent and take control of Birith, imprisoning Entika and the guildmasters and effectively cutting off the head of Birith's government. Belipotash is also apparently in favor of Anarin's writing system and asks Anarin to write down a story, except...we never are told Belipotash's story or see the effects of it being written down so it's kind of a plot that gets abandoned halfway through. Belipotash seeks to cement his rule in Birith by introducing the Lugal fire god, Geru, as a consort to Inanna and thus symbolically unite the two factions through faith. Entika initially agrees to cooperate and even represent Inanna in a symbolic ritual where she and Belipotash as Geru will consecrate the temple in sexual union. Halfway through the ceremony Entika changes her mind, driving Belipotash into a rage in which he kills Entika and orders the death of all the guildmasters and leaders of Birith. And you know, it would be really interesting to see what happens as a result of Belipotash's actions except...everyone dies.
Yeah, I'm not kidding. A giant flood comes along, wipes out Birith and kills everyone.
Honestly the only message I can conclude from that ending is all of life is meaningless and it doesn't really matter what we do because we're all going to die anyway. *Shrug*
Overall I get the impression there were three or four directions that Vollmar and Mann wanted to go with this story, and just halfway through they were forced to abandon most of them. Especially with a kill-them-all and wipe out all traces ending I feel like the creators were dissatisfied with how it turned out and just wanted to see an end to the project more than anything. Of course it's very likely I am far off the mark in saying that but it's my overall impression. Especially when I consider the relative brevity of this work, five chapters of twenty-six pages each, I think Inanna's Tears would have benefited from sticking to one theme for their story rather than incorporating several disparate elements.
A final important note, this book is rated mature because of nudity, and I know that can be offensive to some people. I didn't find this nudity particularly sexual, more a side effect of these people live somewhere hot so they don't wear much clothing to compensate. I didn't find it offensive, and I'm even the anti-smut guy, but people should be aware that it's in there in small doses.
Overall I was just kind of confused and a little disappointed with how Innana's Tears ended and I think this comic would have benefited from more story development. What ended up in the book was good, but I felt like there were a lot of ideas the creators had that had to be abandoned to meet space requirements. I would definitely suggest checking it out for yourself but maybe waiting on buying it.