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'Profane' #2 proves self-awareness and meta storytelling can be massive fun

Comic Books

‘Profane’ #2 proves self-awareness and meta storytelling can be massive fun

‘Profane’ brings us into the story with profound results.

With Profane, writer Peter Milligan promised us a career-defining book. Issue #1, however, proved that Profane isn’t perhaps the greatest book Milligan has ever tackled, but it’s clearly among the most Milligan-esque. Joined by artist Raül Fernandez and colorist Giada Marchisio, Milligan laid the foundation for a smart, wholly meta exploration of (and I’m unironically quoting myself here) “comics fans, popular fiction, and storytelling at-large.”

But debuts are debuts for a reason, and maybe something in Profane #2 could take this book from an interesting enough thought experiment (with lush visuals galore) into something that really stands out among the Milligan-penned library of great books (X-Statix, Enigma, etc.)

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And like a big break while investigating some murdered heiress, issue #2 really cracks the case of Profane wide open.

Because, as I mentioned in my review of issue #1, Profane was interested in being massively meta from day one. It seemingly wanted to be about characters who come to see their fictional nature, and struggle with that for a deeply potent story about our own murky existence (why else make such overt comparisons to BANG!?) Only our lead, Will Profane, doesn’t really struggle with the bombshell from the end of issue #1, and without revealing too much, he gets right into solving the case of his murdered creator, novelist Spud Coltrane.

In this way, Profane is elevated beyond the comparisons (a list that should include Subgenre) into something altogether more inventive and compelling. It’s less about highlighting the distinctions between fiction and reality but showing their connective potential. Milligan’s overarching narrative aligns these “worlds” in a way that we begin to delve into how we need stories, how we rely on them for support and guidance, how these tales often take on life beyond our own efforts, and even what it really means to tell a story. These big, often abstract ideas that are very much interested in showing that we’re often creating and developing ourselves through these constructs rather than playing god or engaging in some slightly hacky wish fulfillment.

Profane

BOOM! Studios

Mr. Profane’s behavior in this issue exemplify a deep love and humanity in storytelling, stripping out some of the latent irony and intellectualism (often in perception) for something that explains our process not only for telling stories but why (and what value) comes from dissecting them in increasingly meta and self-aware comics titles.

The fact that Profane is so unshaken by this process — hinting at the real shape of the world and the twin nature of fiction and nonfiction/reality — is massively important here. I spoke in that first review that Milligan is no stranger to the weird and kooky, and he demonstrates that here by treating this construct with a directness and excitement. It’s about everyone mostly being on board, and regardless of what shape that takes, it helps mitigate the meta-ness of it all for something more genuine and earnest. A celebration not of one’s own intelligence to craft such a self-involved gimmick machine, but to really cut to the core of this story like a proper noir. In that way, Profane is very much this experiment as it’s also just a well-constructed and deliberate murder mystery.

Of course, none of that could be possible without the work of Fernandez and Marchisio. In the debut issue of Profane, the two really laid the groundwork for this sleek, sexy bit of true crime — something with the glitz and glamour of old Hollywood movies mixed with the odds and ends of Justified, Get Shorty, The Maltese Falcon, and, of course, a heaping helping of comics goodness. The look of this book is vital, and without that ease, appeal, and familiarity, Milligan’s whole meta bit wouldn’t be nearly as effective. It would bring us out of the world and make us painfully aware of the machinations of its creators.

Profane #2

BOOM! Studios

In issue #2, that work continues in some really important ways. There’s not a ton of difference between the two worlds here, and I think that’s vital in keeping us guessing and facilitating another core goal of the Profane creative team. Still, there were instances where maybe the way light/shadow operated and engaged, or the color schemes varied, that made me think the creators were trying to distinguish the worlds in a really subtle but effective manner.

And yet we also got some clearly fictional moments happening in the real world, and vice versa, and it made me feel like there weren’t so much rules involved as solid enough suggestions throughout. Which maybe is the best for this book — we need to have something resembling terra firma but to also feel like things can grow and shift at any time because that’s the trademark of any good story worth a damn.

But even if we couldn’t grasp the back-and-forth of realities, the book continues to be almost transcendently gorgeous. Fernandez and Marchisio not only understand the hallmarks of the chosen genre, but they balance grit and heft with sensuality and playfulness, and through that we can occupy this world in a really meaningful way. There’s the right balance of influences and genre standbys mixed with spurts of the fantastical or something new/uncommon (I’m thinking of the scene where Profane actually does some light scrying).

Profane #2

BOOM! Studios

And so what we get is a book that knows what it must do and can’t do to be authentic, and it willfully toes the line across the whole issue as to push and pull us in a storyline that’s all about that organic engagement and being a wee bit mischievous in how it moves us through events. The style isn’t just the way for this book’s magic to happen — it’s also the thing that stokes our brain and prepares us for a proper mystery to unfold (and we’re the victims, FYI).

I get the idea that Profane is still contributing to this “meta wave” that’s overtaken comics (and especially crime/noir projects). But it’s doing something not only to be novel and different, but to make us think of ourselves and our efforts in a different light. To see that we don’t need some ironic detachment to understand ourselves and the stories we tell, but to embrace the joy and insanity of this act head on.

And through that, we add a new and rich chapter of our lives and shared experiences, and explore how stories are the way we build bridges, grow ourselves, enhance life, and generally commune with something much bigger. Profane may be a teensy bit involved, but you’ll find so much richness and power if you just make the tiny effort.

'Profane' #2 proves self-awareness and meta storytelling can be massive fun
‘Profane’ #2 proves self-awareness and meta storytelling can be massive fun
Profane #2
This book isn't meta like some other recent titles, and it tries to celebrate and dissect storytelling and our connection with fiction with true prowess and intent.
Reader Rating1 Votes
8.9
Peter Milligan's narrative takes new turns to offer a more emotional and deeply human exploration of metafiction.
The art isn't just gorgeous, but it also facilitates so much of the storyline's general abilities and core power.
There's a joy and curiosity abounding this book that makes it such a treat to explore.
If you''ve had it with meta-tinged stories/books, you might not want to give this one a go.
8
Good
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