Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.

Login with username, password and session length
 

Author Topic: A Damnation Station primer: Cho-ra for the memories...  (Read 1358 times)

TordelBack

  • Member
  • CALL-ME-KENNETH!
  • *****
  • Posts: 22737
  • Thunder Chops is dragged off, gnashing...
    • View Profile
A Damnation Station primer: Cho-ra for the memories...
« on: 20 September, 2013, 04:16:54 pm »
It's catch-up time again. 

Going back to the progstash to re-read Damnation Station proved disastrous.  It ran alongside Talented Mayor Ambrose, Mega-City Justice, Ichabod Azrael, Heroes be Damned, Zombo 2, Savage, Life and Death of Johnny Alpha... you get the picture.  Almost impossible to dip in to that lot for just one story, even one as good as this, so it took longer than it should have to write this. 

So, apologies for the delay, apologies for the length, and TOTAL SPOILERS AHOY, so for goodness' sake read the progs instead if you can get hold of 'em: it's a brilliant, brilliant series on every level.  If you can't be arsed reading my clumsy ramblings, just skip ahead to the TL;DR paragraph at the end.

Preamble thing:
In an interview published in Prog 1692 at the end of the 2010 run, Al Ewing reveals that his original pitch was 'Foreign Legion in space' with a European flavour, and a large cast who might die at any minute, inspired by the Peter Gillis' classic Strikeforce Morituri.  He also observes that the issues of propaganda and the political use of immigrants and refugees are to the fore, making it more serious than his usual stuff.  Along with the Legion Commander's frequent use of French, the diverse aliens in the story all speak a kind of faux esperanto, which is fun to attempt to translate and gives a terrific texure to the whole thing.

Unusually for the 2000AD these days, the 14 episode run is made up of a series of stories of varying length, something we've been discussing vigorously elsewhere.  For the record, it works.
 
To the dark and empty skies. (Progs 1677-1680, Al Ewing, Simon B Davis and Ellie deVille)
Looking to escape a Hollywood blacklist, Brett Grayle, the handsome gay Jewish American star of the 'Blake Bang' movies, becomes the first celebrity to embark on a 2 year tour of duty with the Host Auxiliary Legion on Earth Station One, known to its inhabitants as 'Damnation Station'. 

The Legion is a volunteer force that serves the Hosts, the 'rightful owners of our galaxy since before humans existed' as the government-controlled media has it, a time worryingly stated as being 'more than 6,000 years' ago, who take humanity's help in resisting 'invaders', immigrants from other galaxies, in lieu of rent for their tenancy of Earth.

On arrival at ES1 Brett is greeted by admin officer June Akiwara, and Grand-Pere, the grey-bearded bloodshot-eyed commander who imparts the Legion's Code of loyalty, to be broken on pain of death.  Brett is horrifed when deputy squad leader Joe Nowhere reveals that his 'Comm team' posting is not in fact to a cushy Communications post – but rather to a seven-man Commando team. 

Commando Team Four is made up of a five-man unit of Grand-Pere, black balding goateed Joe Nowhere, gung-ho hispanic Tura Vasquez, bearded gun-nut Reymont and now Brett, with shaggy-haired hippy Jim Bradbury (medic) and pink-haired asian June Akiwara (admin) remaining in support on their shuttle.

As team commander, Grand-Pere meets with the Host Supervisor of ES1, a typically horrid SBD-drawn humanoid head with too many teeth, attached to huge bulbous organic mass of sacks and tubes suspended from the roof, to voice concerns about plans for his team's next mission. 

The Host explains that humans are guests in the Hosts' galaxy, which under their laws of hospitality means they have incurred the debt of chu-ro, which they must repay with cho-ra, fighting against those aliens who are not guests.  The debt cycle of chu-ro and cho-ra is what ensures humanity's staus as guests and thus their survival, and the Hosts' technological and strategic assistance.  To refuse even a suicidal mission, as this one appears to be, would be for the Commander to incur a terrible debt of chu-ro.  Grand-Pere secures a scheduling adjustment to the mission to improve his team's chances, but at what cost?

Meanwhile on the target world, Recon-team member Estevez has been captured by the 30 or so alien immigrants camped there, and made to reveal the strike plans.  Dropping from orbit the commando team are met by missiles, and Brett finds himself splashing down alone in a swamp, where he panics and shoots and kills an alien, which turns out to have been a child of the species.  Captured by the child's parents, he is rescued by Reymont and a flippant Tura, but a jammed gun gets Reymont killed.  Grand-Pere sets explosives around the aliens' camp, who are revealed to be refugee families fleeing some galactic catastrophe to settle on an otherwise empty fertile world.  As the aliens and their children are blown-up and the surviving commandos head for home, Brett  realises why Earth Station One is called 'Damnation'. 

The feelings that you lack. (Prog 1681, Ewing, Boo Cook and EdV)
Reymont's Host-selected replacement is the sociopathic Jaeger, a Swiss member of the racist People's Party, initially assigned by Grand-Pere to a solo sweep of an airless moon in Quadrant 10 to keep him out of the way, where he nonetheless finds and executes a surrendering alien crash survivor.  Grand-Pere protests his appointment to the Host Supervisor, but is told that no action can be taken unless Jaeger breaks the Code of the Legion.  Meanwhile, medic Jim Bradbury is caring for Grand-Pere's predecessor, Commander Braddock, whose mind is somehow completely gone.  Bradbury warns Brett that these are the dangers of command in the Legion.

The sun always shines.  (Progs 1682-1684, Ewing, Boo and EdV)
Brett, Nowhere and Bradbury patrol a desert planet with multiple suns, searching for alien immigrants, while June and Jaeger monitor from the orbitting shuttle.  Fabulously-designed armadilloesque aliens ambush the patrol's hovercar, and Jaeger secretly closes off the ship's comms and ignores the groundteam's calls for help.  Brett is badly injured, and Joe Nowhere demonstrates extraordinary marksmanship before collapsing and playing dead with what he claims is the old (Johnny Alpha trademarked) slowed-heart trick, despatching the unwary aliens with a surprise attack from the rear.  Back at ES1, Brett is hospitalised, while a distraught June takes responsibility for the closed comms, and seeing herself as having broken the Code of the Legion cuts off her own finger in recompense, and Jaeger's deception appears to remain undetected.  Boo's art for this story is simply extraordinary.

A bone to be chewed. (Progs 1686-1687, Ewing, SBD and Annie Parkhouse)
The Host Supervisor berates Grand-Pere for leaving Jaeger (who G-P describes as 'un chien enrage', a mad dog) on the bench while Brett and June are out of action, and reveals that previous unit commander Braddock's mental state is a result of incurring to much chu-ro debt.   The team are to undertake a sweep of a Class 7 water world, where a single aquatic alien is believed to have taken up illegal residence.  Bradbury notes that they are now chasing a lone alien, when not too long ago they were tackling large camps.  Have they perhaps succeeded in clearing out the immigrants?

Grand-Pere, Nowhere and Jaegar take a hovercar to the storm-lashed world, where Jaeger pulls a gun on them, intending to kill the commander and his deputy and assume command of Team Four, so that he can work with the Hosts directly, rather than with the degenerates he sees the other Legionnaires as. 

Openly laughing at his insane wish to be Commander, Nowhere reveals that he knows that the objectionable Jaeger is being used by the Hosts to manipulate Grand-Pere into chu-ro debt, and has taken the precaution of disabling his gun.  Jeager draws a knife just as the alien leviathan attacks the hovercar, he stabs Grand-Pere, but G-P uses a grenade to blow them both up, along with the alien fish.  Bradbury in the shuttle picks up the now-Commander Nowhere.  SBD's depiction of the water world and the giant leech-mouthed alien fish is nothing short of spectacular.

Fellas, it's been good to know you. (Prog 1689, Ewing, Willsher, Blythe and Parkhouse)
Commander Nowhere reads from Baudelaire's poem 'The Man and the Sea” at Grand-Pere's funeral, and we learn that June has returned to duty, her breakdown caused by her failure at the desert world dredging up feelings of responsibility for the death of her own child, her original reason for her joining the legion.  Bradbury and Brett have become lovers, and as they lie in Brett's bed in the infirmary Bradbury outlines his theory that the Hosts use the Legion to select exceptional individuals to serve as Commanders,  who they can manipulate into chu-ro debt in order protect their Legionaire's lives, and then somehow feed off them in cho-ra repayment. Damned if you do, damned if you don't: Damnation Station.

Even heroes fail. (Progs 1690-1692, Ewing, SBD and EdV)
The fleet of Recon ships return to Earth Station One, bringing with them the hope that an absence of any detected aliens means it could all be over by Christmas.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, the ships turn out to be captured Trojan horses, and an alien suicide-bomber kills June and cripples the docking bay.  In the canteen Nowhere and Tura are eating with the commanders of Teams 2 and 3, when heavily armed alien squads start working through the station, killing Nowhere and the other commanders almost immediately, apparently making Tura the new Commander of Team 4: however despite being shot twice right in the heart, Nowhere somehow survives and recovers. 

Bradbury and Brett are still shacked up together the infirmary, where an alien incinerates former Commander Craddock in his bed, before Bradbury tells Brett that he's in love with him and positions himself between Brett and the invader.  Tura saves them at the last moment, and hands Bradbury the half-eaten burger she brought from the canteen.  Brett starts to tell Bradbury that he's only using him for sex, but in the middle of this confession Bradbury chokes on the secondhand burger and dies while the distraught bed-ridden Brett unable to help him, calling for help in a now deserted station. 

Newly 'promoted' Commander Crane of Team 1 reports to the Hosts.  All the station's admin and engineering staff are dead and Team 2 has been wiped out.  The Host Supervisor claims the aliens owe a 'black chu-ro', a terrible debt for abuse of their hospitality, and the fight must now be taken to the aliens' home galaxy.  Crane is enthusiastic about this new policy, but harbours doubts about Nowhere's support for it.

Meanwhile, a spookily black-eyed Joe Nowhere is bandaging two virtually bloodless bullet holes in the centre of his chest,  remarking 'that's right where their hearts are'. 

Quick wrap-up TL;DR bit:
As the first run ends, the only survivors of Commando Team Four are apparent undercover alien Commander Joe Nowhere, his nonchalantly violent deputy Tura Vasquez and the traumatised former movie star Brett Grayle.  The persecution organised by the Hosts has pushed the immigrant alien populations into making a strike against their exterminators, and with cho-ra on their side Earth Station One and its Legionnaires are now obliged to begin a retaliatory invasion of other galaxies, which appears to have been the Hosts' plan all along... 

When this is all done, I will be buying the TPB.

(With thanks to RAC for saving my bacon)



« Last Edit: 20 September, 2013, 04:21:56 pm by TordelBack »

Minkyboy

  • Member
  • Prog Stacking Droid
  • ***
  • Posts: 535
    • View Profile
Re: A Damnation Station primer: Cho-ra for the memories...
« Reply #1 on: 20 September, 2013, 06:33:08 pm »
Great job  thanks TB, despite having read it all first time round I had forgotten most of that. 
Fiddling while Rome burns

"is being made a brain in a jar a lot more comen than I think it is." - Cyberleader2000

Anzati

  • Member
  • Page Numbering Droid
  • **
  • Posts: 146
    • View Profile
Re: A Damnation Station primer: Cho-ra for the memories...
« Reply #2 on: 20 September, 2013, 06:48:15 pm »
Holy crap...I have a lot of good stuff to catch up on :(

I, Cosh

  • Member
  • Bionic Fingers
  • *****
  • Posts: 8828
    • View Profile
Re: A Damnation Station primer: Cho-ra for the memories...
« Reply #3 on: 20 September, 2013, 07:39:32 pm »
That Tordelback. Still finding things to dig up.

Seriously though, good work and a lot of details I'd forgotten. Havent been following the current debate but I've previously been tediously repetitive on the merits of this type of structure. It obviously wouldn't work for every strip but I like the variety and it's particularly effective with a large cast. I always thought Defoe would've suited it. On the other hand, I know I'm in the minority in actively liking different artists on a strip.

Anyway, really enjoyed the first run of this and looking forward to catching up with this.
We never really die.

Proudhuff

  • Member
  • CALL-ME-KENNETH!
  • *****
  • Posts: 11985
  • Lock S-foils in attack position.
    • View Profile
Re: A Damnation Station primer: Cho-ra for the memories...
« Reply #4 on: 21 September, 2013, 10:01:44 am »
Great job  thanks TB, despite having read it all first time round I had forgotten most of that.

^^ this, which is worrying the detail and complexity of the story is coming back, after TB's fine update, another vote for a TPB here.
No doubt I'll be a grumpy killjoy Mr Negative...

UncleBaal

  • Member
  • Sub Basement Sewer Unit
  • *
  • Posts: 22
    • View Profile
Re: A Damnation Station primer: Cho-ra for the memories...
« Reply #5 on: 21 September, 2013, 12:44:03 pm »
Thanks for the update! I'd forgotten most of the plot and digging out the progs in the basement would be a pain... I definitely think it will read better as a TPB

TordelBack

  • Member
  • CALL-ME-KENNETH!
  • *****
  • Posts: 22737
  • Thunder Chops is dragged off, gnashing...
    • View Profile
Re: A Damnation Station primer: Cho-ra for the memories...
« Reply #6 on: 22 September, 2013, 06:20:36 pm »
Cheers chaps. 

Quick correction to the waffle, Brett isn't gay, he's clearly bi - somehow I misread his interaction with the stewardess in the first episode, and his agent's reference to 'toned girls and boys'.