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George R.R. Martin's Wild Cards: The Hard Call

1/07/2011. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy George R.R. Martin's Wild Cards: The Hard Call in the USA - or Buy George R.R. Martin's Wild Cards: The Hard Call in the UK

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George R.R. Martin's Wild Cards: The Hard Call by Daniel Abraham and Eric Battle. pub: Dynamite Entertainment. 140 page hardback graphic novel. Price: under GBP 12.00 (UK) if you know where to look. ISBN: 978-1-60690-158-8.

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As you might have seen in recent years here, I’m a bit of a ‘Wild Cards’ fan. I had heard of ‘The Hard Call’ mini-series a while back so kinda jumped when I discovered it had been released as a graphic novel. This isn’t the first time ‘Wild Cards’ has been in graphic format but the last time was nearly thirty years ago now, assuming I haven’t missed any in the interim.

As you will find out from various places in the graphic novel, the ‘Wild Cards’ virus was a manufactured alien virus let loose on Earth back in the 1940s in the New York area, although there have been various outbreaks across the world since. For the majority, those getting the Black Queen died, those who become deformed in various ways were nicknamed jokers and those who had all the perks of being super-human became aces. There is also the Trumph, a cure created by its alien creator, which will cure or kill you, for the most extreme cases but fatalities are very high but as the suicide rate is so high in the first year, any chance is better than no chance. The cards motif was something the writing group that George RR Martin called them also resulted in the various titles based off poker hands.

The one area where a graphic novel can succeed that the novels might not is in giving the visuals to what everyone looks like. The art of the ‘Wild Cards’ writers is that you tend to see the characters as people far more than the deformities that many of the jokers have. Artist Eric Battle brings this to life well, although I think he got centaur Doctor Bradley Finn’s colour wrong in his brief cameo although this is correct in a Melinda Snodgrass written, Anthony Tan drawn exclusive story at the back of the book.

I should point out that it is possible to read this story without reading the ‘Wild Cards’ novels based on what is given here, looks like events happened here before the recent re-shuffle at TOR books, as most information you need is here.

Croyd Crenson is the ace called the Sleeper, not because he can send you to sleep but rather after he sleeps extensively, he wakes up in a different form looking like either an ace or joker, with an enormous appetite to replenish his energy. The books explained a long while back that he re-infects himself with the wild cards virus and hence the constant metamorphosis. Crenson has a nebulous past as a mercenary and detective to make ends meet. He also uses drugs to stop himself sleeping for prolonged periods which can make him a little jumpy.

His latest transformation makes him look more or less normal although when agitated, his hands become large claws and his feet make gripping up walls rather easy. He needs to stay awake and visits Steph, the nurse at the Joker Clinic, to get a supply of amphetamines which as she’ll have to steal for him, he’ll meet the next day. As she does the theft, a disguised ace walks through the wall to steal the Trump virus and kills her. Crenson is considered a suspect and sets out to clear his name. In the meantime, this ace has let loose the Trump virus at a school science fair resulting in a wild cards outbreak with some new aces, jokers and deaths. One of the new aces who can discharge electricity helps Crenson, more so when one of his school-mates has become a joker where the lower half of her body has turned maggot-like. If you want more, you’ll have to read the book.

This is actually a neat detective story and you’re left guessing a long time as to who the mystery ace is and when revealed the other elements fill up the space in a logical way. Writer Daniel Abraham does a good job here, bringing sympathy to all the characters for their various predicaments and a reminder that for some, human nature, isn’t likely to change just because they become different.

If you haven’t got your latest ‘Wild Cards’ book fix yet, then this will keep you going but make sure you have plenty of time to sit down and read in one sitting.

GF Willmetts

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