Juszezak & Alcante
Like previous volumes of Cinebook’s Pandora’s Box, Greed takes the deadly sin, dips it into classical Greek mythology and wraps it in modern tech. (Reviews of the first three volumes here: Pride, Sloth, Gluttony.)
The sin this time round being Greed, it’s no surprise that the lead character here is a banker/investor/financial genius called Midas. And yes, everything he touches does indeed turn to gold, or at least cold hard cash. Every deal he makes works out, and his financial skill and judgement is matched only by his luck. But luck can’t last forever and we spend much of the book wondering not if, but when his luck, and his money will desert him.
Midas has only one thing he loves more than money and that’s his daughter. Completely different from Midas senior, she’s working in Brazil for a development organisation funding social projects. Money means nothing to her, she’s the beauty and simple enjoyment of life that Midas has never and will never have.
(Midas turns his attention to a new arena, not knowing how wrong it’s all going to go for him, professionally and personally. From Pandora’s Box: Greed by Alcante and Juszezak, published by Cinebook.)
As the book begins we see Midas taking an interest in Brazil, forecasting massive changes in the fortunes of the country. Ruthlessly, efficiently, he manipulates and manoeuvres things into place, ready for the money to fall into his lap – but a combination of Midas’ ruthlessness, terminal instability in the Brazilian political and economic landscape and sheer dumb luck (or lack thereof) sees Midas’ daughter’s world become wrapped up in her fathers and the fortunes of a country and the fortunes of the man become horribly, tragically enmeshed.
(A full page of Alcante’s wonderful financial thriller – it’s just such a shame that so much of this meant a horribly rushed ending. From Pandora’s Box: Greed by Alcante and Juszezak, published by Cinebook.)
This volume of Pandora’s Box could have been, and frankly should have been rather brilliant, since Alcante’s story of political and financial intrigue is well thought out and delightfully intriguing. It’s a thrilling tale without the need for action – all of the thrills come from the cerebral and venal world of politics and high finance.
But sadly it all goes wrong and the whole book suffers greatly. First and foremost it’s just too short – 48 pages just isn’t enough to explore the complex financial theories that writer Alcante is using to propel his story. This means that a slow start gives way to a fascinating middle section that lasts up to about page 40. Which means that the story just doesn’t have the pages needed to make it work and we’re left with a horribly rushed finale, deeply unsatisfying after what had looked quite brilliant in the setup.
Then there’s the characterisation, or rather the lack of it. Again, the length has something to do with this; Alcante’s far too busy setting up a complicated financial and political thriller to have any room to provide us with anything more than sketches, caricatures and stereotypes.
And finally, there’s the artwork – Juszezak starts well, but all too soon his line just dissolves into simplicity, any subtlety is gone and his figures become puppet like, devoid of anything remotely resembling reality.
(That’s the page when the art just turned from perfunctory to downright bad – lazy styling and a complete lack of detailing means characters that wander around like lifeless puppets. From Pandora’s Box: Greed by Alcante and Juszezak, published by Cinebook.)
And it’s sad that Greed is so flawed, since, as I intimated above, the actual idea of the book, coupled with the detailed setup Alcante’s written that takes up the majority of it’s pages is actually rather intriguing – a corporate, financial thriller in the making that could have been so much more than it is.
Pandora’s Box as a series has been frustratingly patchy, all too often failing to really engage me and failing to make the complicated points Alcante wants to make using his allegorical tales. It’s halfway through now and I fear that the remaining four volumes will prove just as frustrating. But I live in hope.