Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Vigils 'n' Sigils: Aleister & Adolf

I've been dragging my heels on this post, even though its subject -- a comic bookAleister & Adolf, story by Douglas Rushkoff, art by Michael Avon Oeming -- is essentially what launched me on this series of riffs and reckonings.


Rushkoff's story is a skein of noirish intrigue, exploring the ties that bound Adolf Hitler to Aleister Crowley, who, in Rushkoff's words, "was the quintessential English adventurer and mage -- an occultist deeply involved in ceremonial magic, mysticism, tarot, astrology, secret societies, and sigils. He wrote poetry, took drugs, engaged in sex rituals, and travelled through alternate realities. He was the very center of the occult scene of the twentieth century."

Scary stuff, then -- though a superficial reading of the work probably won't raise the hair on the back of most readers' necks.

Rushkoff introduces a fictional narrator sent by the military to entice Crowley to help with the Allied cause. Mission accomplished, although who has enticed whom is a matter of constantly shifting perspective as the narrative winds on.


The story is buttressed with some nifty/freaky factoids, including Crowley's assigning -- through Ian Fleming(!) -- Churchill's "V for Victory" sign as a counter-sigil to Hitler's swastika.

Oeming illustrates it all with a cartoon brio reminiscent of Mike Mignola: the entire caper plays, on a superficial level, much the way Mignola's more successful Hellboy narratives do. Magic (or "Magick") is afoot in this world, entrapping the unwary.

Unlike Mignola, however, Rushkoff's world is our world. Whatever one makes of Crowleyean claims (and Rushkoff portrays him as a canny suggester non pareil who lets others make claims on his behalf which he then dodges with dramatic, and cryptic, counter-assertions) it is indeed unnerving to see just how embedded his invested symbolism has become in the commercial environment that strives to captivate and "inform" our every waking moment.

If taken seriously -- and on some level, this story should be taken seriously; but more on that in a bit -- Rushkoff and Oeming are likely to nudge the reader toward paranoia.

A potentially dangerous book, in other words -- reader, beware.

Rushkoff and Dark Horse play up the peril in the promo-copy, giving it a sensationalist patina that fits the precis. But if one listens to Rushkoff's interviews he is evidently sincere in his warnings.

So why read it at all?

Well . . .

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