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Book Review: The Surrogates: Flesh and Bone by Robert Venditti


Genre: Graphic Novel, Crime Noir, Near Future SF, Legal Thriller
Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: Top Shelf Productions
Publication Date: August 12, 2009
ISBN-10: 1603090185
ISBN-13: 978-1603090186
Author Website: Robert Venditti.com

Cultural and political revolution often begins with the breaking of the law. The Boston Tea Party was illegal destruction of property. Rosa Parks sat on a bus where the law said she couldn’t. Nelson Mandela was accused of treason. As a result of these acts, the larger polity was aroused, and reforms and changes were made, with various effects.

So it is with Robert Venditti’s Flesh and Bone, the prequel to the graphic novel The Surrogates (now a major motion picture releasing September 25, 2009). In it, wonderfully illustrated by Brett Weldele, readers meet a young Greer, still a patrolman. Greer is first on the scene of a brutal homicide, and is taken under the wing of the senior detective on the case. As he follows the senior detective through the clear-cut but very politically charged case, Greer shows the early signs of the investigative prowess which will stand him in good stead in the sequel.

Flesh and Bone is a pre-Surrogate world (surrogates are life-like robots controlled by VR from the safety of your own home, allowing you to be anyone, anytime), where only a few people are in possession of surrogates. The rich have theirs, and the process of living life through a surrogate is becoming more and more mainstream. The murder and the reactions it begets soon leads to the almost completely Surrogate-enhanced world the reader finds at the beginning of The Surrogates (my review).

The story is A Time to Kill set in a near future metropolis. Like Grisham’s classic legal thriller, the story is about race and the haves versus the have-nots. Social inequality plays a large part in the story, and unlike in history and in legal thrillers, things end not in integration, but in segregation. And the story continues to look into the nature of what it means to be human.

Weldele’s gray, blue, and occasionally red hued, darkly outlined, sharp featured artwork gives Flesh and Bone a feeling of dark noir, hardboiled and gritty. Weldele’s choice of style ratchets up a good graphic novel into greatness.

Flesh and Bone is an excellent prequel that is both complete in its own right and an easily read introduction to The Surrogates, one which sets the stage for the forthcoming movie in grand fashion. Greer will be a character you will familiarize with, but readers will also not be betrayed by having already read the ending to the movie. Flesh and Bone is highly recommended reading.

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