Arc Reaction: Translucid

Published on September 22nd, 2014

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Today on Arc Reaction we’re going to talk about Translucid in its entirety. Hopefully I can shed some light on all 6 issues of this limited series written by Claudio Sanchez & Chondra Echert and published by BOOM. It’s a bit of a stretch to consider Translucid an arc since in reality it’s the whole story. But why get caught up on technicalities? MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!

 

TranslucidThematically and structurally, the story is compelling. It’s about the weird relationship between hero and villain. Claudio Sanchez & Chondra Echert do their damndest to make sure everything fits into these 6 issues. It’s an incredibly challenging job that they largely get right, especially when considering how fractured the narrative is. Since it takes place largely in the Navigator’s drugged mind, there’s a lot of psychedelic imagery. And that imagery is fantastic. Daniel Bayliss’s art combined with the amazing coloring from Adam Metcalfe is what really makes this book stand out. It plays a large part in telling the surreal and metaphorical elements of the story, and it absolutely sells it. Without the art and colors, it simply wouldn’t work.

A not-so-quick synopsis of Translucid is that it’s a book in which the hero, Cornelius a.k.a. the Navigator, goes into hiding after his archrival, Horse, heads to jail. Upon his return, Horse decides the Navigator is no longer a proper hero. In an act of, let’s say love, Horse traverses the Navigator’s memories, forcing the Navigator to relive the pivotal moments of his childhood which formed him as a hero. In this reenactment, Horse also helps Cornelius to conquer these ghosts from his past and overcome fears which set him on his path as a superhero. Oh, and then Horse kills him.

Horse is very much a modern villain. He’s a vigilante. He kills. But he kills monsters, like child molesters and corporate suits. Evil archetypes you’re unlikely to sympathize with. Horse’s own villainy comes when he’s willing to let innocents die on behalf of the greater good. Thankfully, he never tries to argue that he’s a hero, but he fancies himself a moral guide. He ensures that the Navigator’s moral compass stays properly aligned, and he takes on that role consciously. His final act as the Navigator’s guide happens to be an act of euthanasia. Horse deems that the Navigator has become too reliant on Horse, and so Horse decides to simultaneously learn everything he can about his rival before granting him some final peace.

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Praise aside, there are still problems. Namely, there’s not nearly enough characterization. The story jumps from Cornelius’s origins to essentially Cornelius’s death with a few adventures in between to expand on his encounters with Horse. The problem is actually that the story’s framing is from Horse’s point of view as he explores and observes Cornelius’s past. Horse is the narrator, but he’s narrating Cornelius’s experiences. As a result, there is a disconnect between the audience and Cornelius. We never get to truly understand Cornelius, even though we see these defining moments. The authors choose to keep Horse at a distance. It’s hinted that he too had a traumatic upbringing, and different events led him on a different path, but Translucid focuses on the Navigator above all else.

When Cornelius dies, I don’t care. That is the problem. Showing me his origins does not automatically garner sympathy. I do not know who this character became, only how and why he became whatever it is he is. And while I’m also interested in Horse, perhaps more than I am Cornelius, the authors choose to keep him shrouded in mystery and whatnot. For a story that focuses on the villain trying to learn what he can about the hero, it feels like the audience is left out where it counts.

Translucid is a book that really brings up conflicting feelings. While it’s nothing groundbreaking, it’s still smart. It’s a book that I enjoyed more on my second read, and that I will probably read again at some point. Sadly, with all the thought put behind it, it never bothers to stop and answer, “Why should I care?” And for all the strong ideas in Translucid, it fails to pull them together into a truly great story.

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Travers Capps
Travers@comicimpact.com