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                BOOK REVIEW – GRANT MORRISON & STEVE YEOWELL – SEBASTIAN O. 2004 Vertigo Books.

 

Often very funny short satirical graphic novel about a late Victorian dandy adventurer called Sebastian O, a mixture of Oscar Wilde, Lord Byron & The Marquis De Sade.  Sebastian isn’t so much amoral, as utterly immoral in a Dorian grey fashion. It is hard to say whether he is even likeable. He shoots people just for being poor or ugly.  After a potted chronology of his supposed other adventures, the story begins with Sebastian confined to bedlam, following a raid on a Hellfire Club like bacchanalian decadence gathering in which he took part.

 

Sebastian escapes and sets out to find out who among his friends betrayed him, as many others who were attending the same gathering seem to have got off scot free. Sebastian, despite police pursuit, goes home. The police searching for him there are trapped in an endless maze, and the few who get through to find him get shot.  Sebastian now sets off to find his betrayers, killing one man for ruining his suit in a fight in a London Sewer.

 

Sebastian meets up with an old ally, The Abbe, a notorious paedophile Church Of England figure, who still has altar boys around him as Sebastian questions him. When a group of assassins called The Roaring Boys attack the Abbe’s fortress home, with its clockwork garden, the Abbe is killed, but uses the garden to kill his attackers and help Sebastian escape.

 

Aided further by a lesbian couple, Sebastian eventually finds out the killer is really the unofficial king of England, who has kept the death of Queen Victoria a secret by broadcasting film of her on television (this is a steam-punk London story). As the villain declares himself to be God, Sebastian shoots him and quotes Nietzsche’s line that God is dead.  After a fight with the last of the Roaring Boys, Sebastian retires to home to contemplate his future adventures.

 

Inventive and funny, but not half as clever as it would like to be. The Steam-punk elements seem to be merely an excuse not to go for more accurate period detail, and there are virtually no genuinely sympathetic characters in the story – this is a Victorian revenge drama of villains dealing with villains.

 

 

 

Arthur Chappell

 

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