Unfinished Business

I think that most people would agree that a finished work of art is, in general, far more satisfying than its incomplete equivalent. There are a couple of exceptions--unfinished works that have made the big time nonetheless. Schubert's Symphony and Coleridge's "Kubla Khan" are the two examples which leap to mind; perhaps you can think of more.

However, one could fairly claim that these were exceptions...and a couple of unfinished masterpieces don't weigh up too well against the millions of more complete examples that make their way into the public arena.

But at least when you sit down to Schubert's Unfinished Symphony, you know what you're in for. The situation is totally different if you're cheated half-way through. Imagine if you went to the movies, and after an hour or so (when the hero was just heading into the villain's secret base to rescue the babe) the reel flickers, the lights go on, and they usher you out. Wouldn't you be well justified to feel a bit hard done by? Maybe ask for your money back?

So how come, when a comic-book plot just vanishes into thin air, we don't kick up a stink? We just accept it as part of the genre. Well, sure, sometimes stories get moved aside, and other priorities come up. Writers move on. Plots cross back and forth between titles, and sometimes they slip through the cracks. Danglers can be justified--sometimes. But I suffered a more extreme case just recently.

Over two years ago, I picked up Steampunk #1. It's written by Joe Kelley, under the Wildstorm label. It was unlike anything I had really seen before in comics: rich, sumptuous, mysterious and unexplained, with extraordinarily creative characters. It's one of those lovely stories where they leap into the story, and just explain things bit by bit, rather than giving you all the clues up front.

The tale encompasses a cross-time alternate past struggle between good and evil, epic battles, crossed with a road-trip, interwoven with visionary moments of worlds that might have been. The book shipped erratically, anywhere from one to four months between issues--but I didn't complain. I kept the faith, and stayed committed to my irregular subscription.

Sadly, Wildstorm didn't see fit to do the same by me. Issue #12 just arrived, drawing the second of the three planned chapters to a close, and containing a note that there are no plans to complete the final chapter. The conclusion is not available for purchase. Lights up, no story, no refunds!

The enigmatic journey to an unexplained goal is not to be completed. Wildstorm happily took my two-bucks-fifty each whenever they got around to shipping the title, and in return I don't even get a whole story. Well, I'm not the bitter and twisted type--but you can bet that it'll be quite some time before Wildstorm sees any of my pocket money again.