I picked up Greg Rucka's debut book for his new comic series Veil for my monthly comic round-up, and having read through it about six times now I am convinced that it is the greatest antidote to rape culture I've ever seen in a comic in addition to just being a fascinating and original story. Rucka has been sitting on the character of Veil for 20 years, never really able to may it come out the way he wanted. I say the reason is because Rucka is clearly so ahead of mainstream culture that there was simply no place ready for such a work.
Here's five reasons why.
The Nudity: Veil wakes up in a subway completely naked, desperately confused, speaking in rhyming nonsense, and clearly in a bad way. Then she wanders out into the streets of New York where she gets the exact attention that you might expect her to.
Nudity is used a lot of different ways in visual art. Eroticism and sensuality, of course, but it's also a symbol of vulnerability. If you ask me one of the greatest failures in film was Jessica Alba refusing to actually strip in Sin City. Not because I'm overly invested in seeing her nipples, but because that transition between object of desire and scared little girl when she runs into Hartigan's arms would have been that much more jarring and powerful.
Veil pulls that dichotomous interpretation off by having this gorgeous female form illustrated with care by Toni Fejzula simultaneously lusted over and obliviously unaware of the dangerous situation she's awoken to. It's just really well done.
The Villain Upon leaving the subway the first person to try and talk to Veil is a hulking mass of bad intentions named Vincent. The exact quote goes, "Oh, I want some of that... I'm going to take a sweet piece of her." His friends nearby are a little horrified at his attitude, but don't initially do anything to stop it.
In just a few lines Vincent reveals a lot of what makes rape culture tick. It's not necessarily sex as much as power and greed. He refers to Veil as "that", not "her", and when we see him later he is angry not because of anything she did, but because what he'd claimed as "his" had been denied. She could have been a pile of money or a chocolate cake as far as his brain is concerned. That she is a living, feeling person and not an immediate scratch to an itch simply never occurs to him.
The Consent: Vincent's friend Dante shoves Vincent off and decides to get Veil off the streets and hopefully back to whoever cares for her. Gentlemanly, he sheds his coat to cover her nakedness and escorts her to his home.
That's nothing special in heroes, but the way he does it is brilliant. I literally don't think it's ever been done before in a comic. He doesn't just drape the coat over her; he asks her if he can put the coat on her. He doesn't guide her along by grabbing her arm or putting his own arm around her shoulders. He tells her that he is going to put his hand on her back and to tell him if she doesn't want him to do that.
This isn't some guy living out a white knight fantasy. This is Dante recognizing that something terrible has occurred and making sure at every step he gives Veil the chance to control her surroundings. That's just beautiful.
This story continues on the next page.
The Restraint: Dante gets Veil back home, gets her some of his laughably oversized clothes, and starts asking her if she has someone she can call or if she wants him to take her to a clinic. Veil is still talking like a Lewis Carrol character, but some of the gibberish comes out very much like an invitation for sex.
Again, set the scene. Beautiful girl in your apartment, naked, and possibly throwing herself in your arms after you saved her. It's every straight man's eternal fantasy, and Dante excuses himself to go into the other room and get his head together. Why? Because he still recognizes that Veil is not really capable of making a decision like that right now. Whether she's hinting shyly or blatantly asking for intercourse using descriptive medical language, Dante understands that she is unable to give that sort of consent at this time. Sex with Veil at this point would still be rape, and wrong, and Dante knows it.
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The Revenge: I'm not going to spoil the ending because I very much want you to go out and buy the book, but Vincent and a few other hopefuls don't accept not being able to have sex with Veil. They come straight to Vincent's apartment, and Veil confronts them while Dante is still in the other room telling his erection to go take a cold shower.
Veil handles them. And she handles them in a very unconventional super powered way. She does it in a manner that does leave them begging for mercy, but more importantly utterly removes their choice in the matter. They get zero say in what is now happening to their bodies, and their response to that is a fair approximation of the cries that they've heard from previous girls they've exacted their will upon.
I'm not sure where the book is going from here, but the first issue alone completely annihilates every traditional depiction of women in comic books and kicks rape culture right in its crotch. Walk, don't run, to buy it.