Shekhar Kapur’s Snake Woman, Vol 1: “A Snake in the Grass” by Zeb Wells (script) and Michael Gaydos (art).

So, graphic novels. The last few books I’ve read were all funny books. Expect the reviews over the next week or so to be focused on that area.

Yeah, it’s hard for me to say much without spoiling this, but then again, I don’t think there are many surprises in this book, and it’s been out for ages (since June 2007), so I’m going to just go ahead and talk about it.

Well: this is a horror comic that was published by Virgin Comics, one that, according to a tiny note on the cover, is “Suggested for Mature Readers.” The problem is, however, that mature readers are bound to find themselves asking some questions, such as… why is everyone in this Indian-themed book white? Alright, alright, the British officers were white originally too — the backstory is one of British colonial conquest and rapacious exploitation and murder. But, while I understand that reincarnation wouldn’t necessarily occur such that a person of one race would reincarnate in the same race again and again, I wondered why the 68 (all the examples we met, anyway) remained white, while the Snake Woman was also reincarnated as a white woman. Sure, there are minor characters who aren’t white: Jessica’s sex-kitten roommate Jin is Korean-American, and Raj (the man both Jin and Jessica are attracted to) is an Indian, or maybe Indo-American. I rather expected the 68 to be of more diverse ethnic makeup, but every other individual I recall seeing in the text (except for the Snake Woman in the childhood of her earliest incarnation) was Caucasian, for no reason I can imagine. This might have been addressed in later books in the series, but it baffled me.

Maybe I’m sensitive to the issue because of all the discussion of race and depiction in SF these days? Maybe being sensitive to the issue isn’t a bad thing, though.

The story was alright, with enough little surprises, twists and turns, and reversals to keep me entertained. The backstory, especially, and the characteristically different (and much more interesting) art used to weave that backstory into the main plot, were very well-handled. But all in all it really didn’t come together for me strongly enough to send me hunting for other books in the series. Were I an avid reader of graphic novels, I might feel otherwise, but this book didn’t really do that much for me.

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