Review: Thunder Brother: Soap Division

Published On May 21, 2013 | By Richard Bruton | Comics, Reviews

Thunder Brother: Soap Division Issue 5: Mind Your Language

By Paul Rainey

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Okay, episode 5 of Rainey’s Thunder Brother, and you should have the idea by now. But for those of you at the back who weren’t paying attention, it goes like this:

Imagine a world where the TV soaps weren’t just TV soaps but whole alternate worlds, populated by people completely unaware of their televisual role. And policing these worlds, making sure those cameras keep rolling, is the responsibility of the members of Soap Division, including the mysterious Thunder Brother and the new, wide-eyed apprentice Sally.

So far, Rainey’s series has managed to really pull out some really fascinating ideas and make them flesh. Not necessarily completely original ideas I suppose, but some of the best realisations of the ideas I’ve seen.┬áThe whole idea of an agency existing to police the alternate worlds of soap opera land, where the people live their lives without realising they are televisual entertainment and nothing more for our world, is a great one, and one that Rainey develops so well. But original? Not sure. There’s a little bit of Truman Show in here and it’s one of those ideas that you can only imagine has been done somewhere else in some form.

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But this episode pulls off a real original twist, a belter of an idea. All those down to Earth types, those hard-nuts, those tearaway kids, and none of them every swear? Well Rainey inserts a trio of lads to the world of “Westenders” and they let the swears fly, with surprising results;

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Utter shock, fainting, vomiting, hysteria, and all because in soapland, no-one can swear.

No idea how the overall mechanics of it work, and the thing somewhat falls apart when you really, really think about it. After all, these people are just people, and language is just language, so how is it that this culture of soapland has become the only culture on Earth to not develop swearwords and expletives?

But when you just take it as a surface concept and let the problems drift away, it’s a fantastic idea. Absolutely brilliant, and just the sort off high concept clever stuff that Rainey pulls out seemingly every single story for Thunder Brother. He does it again later on, when the lads find themselves in trouble for cash, since money here is different from money where they’re from:

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Thunder Brother is yet another example of how well Rainey does his brand of soap operatic sci-fi, continually inventive, forever interesting stuff.

The backup strip this time is fascinating as well, an eight-page story XXIII, which is Rainey’s adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 23, all part of a proposed Graphic Sonnets orchestrated by Ilya. There’s an essay from Ilya on the inside back cover talking about the project from which:

“The series book proposal was to take a selection of 10-12 sonnets per graphic album of between 80 to 96 full colour pages. Developing a scenario for each adaptation, I would commission different artists as seemed appropriate to the theme or style.”

“I chose Paul to adapt with me sonnet 23, which might be interpreted as a tale of unrequited love; the love that dare not speak its name – if not in the homodox Wildean sense. Now you can finally see the results.”

There’s been no luck thus far in getting a publisher for the Graphic Sonnets idea yet, but who knows? it’s a great idea, and something that Rainey really makes work in his 8-pages, really letting the 14 lines of the sonnet to stretch out the idea, give it form, give it a story an background, really well done stuff….

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Thunder Brother Soap Division is available from Paul Rainey’s website.

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About The Author

Richard Bruton

– Started in comics retail aged 16 at Nostalgia & Comics, Birmingham. Now located in Yorkshire, he’s written for the Forbidden Planet International Blog since 2007. Specialising in UK Comics and All-Ages comics, Richard’s day job in a primary school allowed him to build the best children’s graphic novel library in the country.

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