This week’s pop culture column is going to be short but sweet, folks: the real world is on my tail and gaining fast. So let’s get to it; there’s no time to waste!
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After raving to Brandon and Danica in person about how good Midnighter is, they referred me to a book by the same writer, Steve Orlando: Virgil. It is right up my alley, a book that the Orlando call a “queersploitation” thriller. Virgil is a comic that revels in all the familiar trappings of the great exploitation revenge films of the 1970s while updating the social issues that drive the plot. The title character is a police in Kingston, Jamaica, who’s living a double life. As a (dubiously) respectable cop he has an image to maintain, as Jamaican culture is notoriously homophobic and Jamaican police culture even more so. But away from the “real world” he has a passionate and loving relationship with his boyfriend Ervan. In their stolen moments alone the two of them fantasize about escaping to Toronto where they can live their lives openly. That is until a police raid breaks up small dinner party that the two are having with other queer friends, leaving four people dead, Virgil beaten within an inch of his life, and Ervan missing. With his private life front page news and no-one to trust, Virgil has to fight his way through the ranks of the police department to get back the man he loves. As Virgil is an exploitation story, Orlando and artist J.D. Fath don’t shy away from scenes of sex and violence, which heighten the tensions involved in Virgil’s one man war on the establishment. Fath’s art is full of power and tension, the faces of the characters heightened without being exaggerated, and unmistakable body language driving the story more than the narration. I also love the use of inks to cast deep shadow, giving the same effect that shadows and light did in old films noir. A quick read but not lightweight by any means, Virgil‘s setting and subject matter revitalize the familiar revenge thriller tropes and make for a must-read book.