I mentioned this a while back, along with another post where I banged on about Octobriana, the made-up heroine of the Russian people.
Since getting a copy of Petr Sedecky’s “Octobriana And The Russian Underground” from Dudley library as a boy I’ve been intrigued by the character and the story of her creation. So every time something comes along in comics featuring her, I’m inclined to have a look.
The latest Octobriana comic is the just released Octobriana: Samizdat Edition graphic novel, an 88pg graphic novel, deliberately presented in classic newsprint form to mimick the samizdat movement in the old USSR. And, as you might expect, especially if you know anything about Octobriana, it’s an adults only thing, where Octobriana spends a lot of time sans clothes, especially during the first part.
This Octobriana story takes place in a slightly different Russia of 1968, where a psychic “thought-plague” is ravaging the country, driving passion beyond reason and setting lovers against each other in a murderous rage. And it’s all being caused by one woman, locked in a Siberian gulag, lashing out in vengence with her psychic powers
It’s up to Octobriana to stop her, free the Russian people and allow everyone to get naked without fear. Or something like that.
It all kicks off when the psychic’s attack possesses one of Octobriana’s lovers, who attacks and nearly the other man in her love triangle. With this, she’s on the trail, and the remaining chapters of the book rather fly by, as she ventures out on a very enjoyable adventure to find and confront the psychic, and in doing so, confront her own mythological nature.
Truog’s art is, like Octobriana herself, an old, familiar thing, that I’m inclined to be more forgiving over than perhaps I should. His art is associated with two series that got me at just the right moment; Steve Englehart’s Coyote and Grant Morrison’s Animal Man.
And it’s very much what I remember, open, loose, a good storyteller but sometimes guilty of some bad faces or poses. And all the way through, I can’t get over the fact that she’s just been prettied up a little too much, and has lost the unique look that I love. But the thing is, for every bad panel, for even the occasional bad page, every so often Truog will pull something really lovely out, and all is forgiven:
The very nature of Octobriana lends itself to making her exactly what you want her to be – and that’s what Orlando and Truog have done here. And it includes creating a long backstory for the character, going so far as to raise her to Godhood, connect her to the ancient Egyptian Pantheon and use that throughout her search for the psychic in Siberia. And although it works very well in the context of the story they’re telling, there’s something that didn’t sit right with me, I prefer my Octobriana mysterious and elusive. I don’t want to know her origins, don’t want to undertand her motives, her past, just want to experience her adventures.
But my dislike of that particular aspect of Octobriana: Samizdat is merely my own personal prejudices and preferences for the character I consider in some way my own. The beauty of the character is that everyone has the chance to feel that way, so I can hardly object too much to Orlando and Truog’s version, can I?
In the end, no matter my gripes and small problems, Octobriana is such a great character that I really enjoyed reading her exploits once more, and hopefully I’ll be telling you all about the next incarnation of the character. It should tell you a lot when I end by saying that if Orlando and Truog keep going with their series I’ll be reading along and enjoying it. She may not quite be my Octobriana, but she’s a fine version.
For further information on her long and interesting history head to the Octobriana Online site.