In his graphic novel Alias the Cat, Kim Deitch harks back to an early-20th-century America that was as baroquely corrupt as our own flailing empire. Told through cliffhanging silent-movie serials, daily newspaper strips, and yellowing, archived front pages, the interwoven tales include a South Seas adventure (replete with volcano sacrifices) and feuds between World War I weapons profiteers, with everything brought up to date through a post-9/11 terrorist plot. Threaded throughout are eBay hunts for dolls based on Deitch's recurring antihero, Waldo the Cat. A funny animal character with a hankering for vice"This town toddled. You had booze! Dope! Whores of all sizes!"Waldo's flesh-and-blood materialization in an abandoned New Jersey retirement home for midgets thoroughly unnerves his creator (Deitch often appears as a protagonist in his own stories). Yet it's as much anger at contemporary warmongers as any hallucinogenic feline that drives Deitch's character to Bellevue's nut ward.
Alias The Cat
By Kim Deitch
Pantheon, 136 pp., $23
Army @ Love By Rick Veitch
Vertigo, 32 pp., monthly, $2.99
Deitch's old-school cross-hatching and the kinetic flow of his black-and-white panels lends Alias the Cat a glow of sweetly cynical nostalgia, while Rick Veitch's new monthly comic, Army @ Love, is a balls-out romp through the near future. The "Afbaghistan" war is grinding on and recruitment's in the toilet, until an ad agency exec caught up in Congress's desperate "corporate draft" hits on the idea of turning the battlefield into "spring break on steroids." Women are deployed in combat to spike the bloodlust, and the newly formed "MOMO" (Motivation and Morale) division sponsors r&r orgies. Veitch is adept at colorful set pieces: A long-haired tactical specialist uses hot licks on his seven-string guitar to direct missile-launching drones in support of a squad of American adrenaline junkies mixing it up with insurgents at a "Baghi" shopping mall. An expanding cast includes battlefield trysters and their home-front spouses (entangled in affairs of their own even as they deal in body parts "professionally harvested from the best funeral home in Afbaghistan"); an oily Secretary of Defense who collects hair clippings of dead pop stars; and a mysterious Wiccan officer who may be undermining all this amoral patriotism with her own righteous voodoo. Breathtakingly satirical, Army @ Love is one nasty piece of work. Bring it on!