by Alcante and Steven Dupré
This is the third in Cinebook’s Pandora’s Box series of connected stories of the seven deadly sins linking modern technology and Greek mythology. I found Volume 1: Pride to be a good, polished tech-thriller but felt that Volume 2: Sloth fell a little flat. With Volume 3 we’re not quite back to the standards of the first volume, but it’s a big improvement on the last volume.
Gluttony, whilst set in contemporary France, takes a subject still firmly in the conciousness of modern British society – the BSE / CJD epidemic of the 80s. And so much of what we see in Gluttony takes iconic moments and imagery directly from the news of the time; the devastation of farmer’s livelihoods, the terrible funeral pyres, even down to idiotic politicians feeding burgers to their children (or grandchildren here) to create an all too believable tale of political greed, deceit and cover-ups.
(A politician attempts to play down the hysteria building as the disease spreads – far fetched? Not really – We all remember John Selwyn Gummer. From Pandora’s Box Volume 3, published by Cinebook.)
The story follows Teze Egee, the adopted son of France’s health minister, in his role as the newly appointed head of the French food safety agency. We follow his work as he investigates why there’s been a rapid increase in requests for Mad Cow Disease testing, all the while hampered by the interests of politicians and big business who can’t (or wont) believe it can be happening – until eventually the disease breaks out across France, a new and deadly strain for cattle and people alike. Can he find a way to control it’s spread, and why is it proving so difficult to isolate the initial source of the outbreak?
It’s a clever, high-tech political drama, focusing heavily on the nature of political machinations and just how easy it is to be overtaken by the demands of big business interests instead of serving the people.
(Battery Farming is just one of the modern agri-processes that gets the once over from Egee (and Alcante) in Gluttony – from Pandora’s Box Volume 3: Gluttony, published by Cinebook.)
There’s possibly too much heavy handed preaching going on with Egge being put in front of one bad practice after another (battery farming, slaughtering techniques) and there are moments where the page just shifts a little too far into being an illustrated lecture. But the story gets past this heavy handed approach, leading to a fairly satisfying, albeit rather telegraphed conclusion with political manoeuvring, betrayal and institutionalised greed found to be the cause of the disease’s spread. Egee’s position as wide-eyed innocent in a world of political nastiness is possibly a little overplayed, but it serves the story well enough to get by.
Possibly one big problem with the Pandora’s Box series is the hook – every volume ties modern tech to the original sin whilst also referencing a Greek myth. This time it’s the legend of Theseus and the Minotaur and from the moment you read the little summary at the front you find yourself looking for the links. However, despite these criticisms, Pandora’s Box is still a series to intrigue and entertain, and Alcante’s writing, although too preachy and choreographed at times here, is entertaining and enthralling in parts as well. The artist this volume, Dupre, does his job well, delivering the literal horrors of the disease and the more subtle evils of the political and business elite well, with carefully controlled artwork thats more functional than spectacular.
Despite saying I was thinking of leaving the series after Volume 2, I’m glad I stayed with it for this and I’m looking forward to seeing where Alcante takes it next.