Graphic novel review: Marjorie Finnegan, Temporal Criminal by Garth Ennis and Goran Sudžuka

(courtesy AWA Upshot)

There is a gloriously mischievous energy that tumbles with vivacity and cheekiness through every last frame of Marjorie Finnegan, Temporal Criminal, a graphic novel which imagines with imaginatively unholy glee what might happen if Lara Croft has a few less scruples, a whole lot more je ne sais quoi and a time machine at her disposal.

Written by the renowned Garth Ennis and illustrated with exuberant emotionality and riotously alive colour by Goran Sudžuka with pitch-perfect colouring by Mioroslav Mrva, Marjorie Finnegan, Temporal Criminal is loot-grabbing race through the epochs of time, covering, as the back blurb notes “from the Big Bang to the Ninety-fifth Reich, and having a s**tload of fun as it does so.

What makes it an even more compelling red, as if this wasn’t enough, and it’s so satisfying just with the racy sexy fun of its wider story, is that has a beating heart underneath all that brash, irreverent sense of playfulness.

The anti-heroine with a heart of gold at the very centre of the story, the eponymous Marjorie Finnegan, isn’t just there to plunder the riches of the pharaohs or the palatial wealth of English kings and queens.

For all her bluster and bravura, and with her nimble way with an indignant pithy oneliner, Marjorie is actually out there to doing Robin Hood-esque righting of some fairly inequitable wrongs.

Don’t misunderstand; with the company of a body-less man named Tim, whose head is the key from romping merrily and with to-date impunity through time, Marjorie is out there to make sure she has the most fun possible at the expense of others and to the significant benefit of herself.

BUT, and this is key to the virtuosic humanity that infuses the graphic novel, she actually does give a damn about others.

While the Temporal PD officer on her trail, who has a fairly sizeable personal stake in apprehending her quarry — SPOILER ALERT!! — because she’s Marjorie’s much-aggrieved, considerably put-upon younger sister, can cite a litany of Marjorie’s wrongs (“a total of seventeen thousand, one hundred and eighty-two violations–coded mauve though scarlet, covering all twelve statues and three hundred amendments”), our titular gal on the run isn’t all bad.

And, is both the key to her appeal and a driver of a narrative which ends up being a save-the-world kinda deal with a whole lot less planning than is likely needed when the fate of everyone is hanging in the balance.

(courtesy AWA Upshot)

While the long arm of the temporal law is after Marjorie, her scummy Satan-like ex and his even more ethics and moral-free partner are out to change the history of the world so that it places them at the centre of humanity’s story to their unending benefit.

They are bad news and while Marjorie’s apprehension seems like a simple case of getting the bad girl, it turns out to be a whole lot more complicated for everyone concerned, not least the two sisters who find themselves uneasily on the same side of history as they attempt to stop it becoming even more blighted than it is already.

With artwork that leaps off the page with don’t-give-a-damn brilliance, bringing the story alive with emotion and heart-and-soul as much as seat-of-your-pants action, Marjorie Finnegan, Temporal Criminal is a violently over-the top but deliciously comedic commentary on family, religion, greed, history and the sheer need to express yourself.

That it all takes place across vast spans of history – at one point there is a chrono-chase through time which culminates with some nimble acrobats around Tyrannosaurus Rex and a Triceratops which ends in a characteristically aggressively quirky way – and with a willingness to be pornographically honest and emotionally stark is just one big bejewelled extra.

Manically silly and intensely serious all at once, Marjorie Finnegan, Temporal Criminal is that rare and bless story that manages to be full to the brim with jokes and hilarious observance, fast and loose with morality and ethics and yet able to hit hard emotionally whenever it really truly matters, and that’s pretty much all the time.

With Sudžuka’s detail-rich artwork creating a real sense of very real yet also Alice in Wonderland-ish time and place, and Ennis’s inspired writing dancing beautifully between manic and contemplative with blockbuster levels of audacious action, and quip-rich moments, this is one story into which you will want to happily and endlessly immerse yourself.

Richly imaginative, funny and thoughtful, Marjorie Finnegan, Temporal Criminal is a gem of a graphic novel, a story that never takes itself too seriously except when it arrestingly does, and which seamlessly and evocatively combines a bonkers poignant narrative with lushly colourful artwork to such a profoundly wonderful and ultimately uplifting effect (don’t worry, mawkish it is not) that you will be forever glad that the novel finishes with the promising phrase “The End … For Then!”

(courtesy AWA Upshot)

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