Cairo   Leave a comment



Scheherezade lives again. This time her name is G. Willow Wilson, and she’s a journalist and a comic book writer.  She doesn’t have to worry about getting her head cut off if the sultan doesn’t like the story.  She writes good stories, but I don’t think her name will ever be as famous as Chris Claremont, John Byrne,  Stan Lee, or Alan Moore. Well, at least she has the alliteration thing working for her.

I picked up Cairo because of the wonderful evocative cover.  The very name is romantic here in the west–Cairo, city of spies, assassins, and undead mummies from looted tombs.  I almost put it back down when I opened it and saw the horse-faced narrator Ashraf and all the gray-scale art.   M. K. Perker’s art isn’t bad, but it didn’t grab me.  A little research shows me that Perker is an award-winning Turkish artist who has also worked with Wilson on the Vertigo series Air (which I have read, and which is also very strange).


Perker’s work is all color on Air, and judging by the gorgeous cover of Cairo, he does exquisite color work.  I wonder if he did Cairo in color, and the gray tones inside the novel are the result of reducing it all to black and white via photocopy or something.  IMHO, Cairo should have been in color.

As a journalist, Wilson has spent a lot of her time in the Middle East.  I believe she writes from a detailed knowledge of the lands and peoples–that despite her fair skin and Americn name, Willow would really like to be an Arab, or perhaps an enlightened Israeli like her heroine Tova.

Woman of Mystery

The story about Ashraf the hashish smuggler who talks to his dead mother (a framing device if there ever was one) wasn’t doing much for me until page 30 when Shams the Jinn appears to this goofy Lebanese American named Shaheed.  At that point we leave the world of drug smugglers, bleeding heart liberal journalists, and misguided American yourh behind and enter the world of the Arabian Nights (with submachineguns).  Yeah, that’s the ticket!

Shams is a thoroughly modern jinn (the real plural is jinni from which we get our American word genie).  Shaheed ain’t never had a friend like him.  He becomes involved in a quest for a Word in a box.  The evil magician and crimelord Nar also wants that Word, and thus excitement and danger is injected into the plot.  All the best treasure maguffins are metaphorical anyway.  While Shaheed is going for flying carpet rides, and meeting gross Egyptian spirit entities like The Evil Under His Armpit–other main characters are being abducted and discovering the Under Nile, or are playing Chase Me with gun-toting thugs.

I don’t intend to recap the story.  Find the book and read it for yourself if you want to know what happened to who.  It’s worth finding and reading, even if it is all gray.  Perhaps artist and writer were trying to catch that illusive feel of the old movies like The Thief of Bagdad.  There is a lot to be said for letting one’s own imagination fill in the colors and details of one’s dreams, but all I can say is Thank Crom that George Lucas made his Indiana Jones movies in color!

I am a hopeless stick-in-the-mud.  If someone offered me a trip to the real world Cairo, I would probably turn them down.  Maybe if I was going to see the Pyramids . . . but the land and people of modern Egypt have almost no attraction for me.  Still, I’m glad I was able to make this fantasy excursion to Cairo, and I hope Ms. Wilson will take me on other strange trips in the future.  She is an excellent guide.


Posted September 26, 2010 by atroll in Uncategorized

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