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Concrete: The Human Dilemma #1

Posted: Monday, January 3, 2005
By: Shaun Manning



Writer/Artist: Paul Chadwick

Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

Paul Chadwick's Concrete returns in a deeply meditative exercise in social philosophy. Ever since aliens transplanted his brain into a giant stone golem, Ron Lithgow has enjoyed a unique perspective on human behavior and the forces that compel men to behave as they do. As Concrete, Lithgow ponders humankind's more destructive impulses... and wonders if he might be its savior. If he's going to shape the course of human evolution, Concrete will need money. Luckily, Walter Sageman, the CEO of Punchinello Pizza, wants to throw plenty of cash his way. With Punchinello's position as the third-largest fast food franchise in America, Sageman wants to use his power for the betterment of society by aggressively promoting sterilization as a fashion statement. He's tapped our favorite rocky giant as a spokesman for the campaign. Concrete has long advocated population control, but is Sageman's proposal too radical even for him?

It's been so long since the last book of Concrete that many readers will come to this series without any knowledge of what has gone before. Chadwick gives a very nice, very basic introduction on the inside cover, and indeed this summary proves all that one needs to get a handle on these characters. The form of the narrative, however, may still be a bit imposing. Concrete spends the entire first four pages talking to himself. His ideas are thought-provoking, if perhaps overwrought, but this is still a tough welcome to a long-dormant property. Then again, perhaps this is what all of Marvel's "decompression" has been preparing us for.

Concrete's supporting cast is wonderfully human, from nearly-betrothed Larry to Tripod the three-legged dog to Brad Pitt and Jennifer Anniston. These characters place Concrete firmly in the world of the artfully mundane. That is, normal people whose lives are quite interestingly thrown into a fantastic story.

Also of note in this series is the choice of social issues Chadwick chooses to examine. He avoids the popular and well-tread causes that largely divide people into two camps and instead jumps to a topic very few people are thinking about. While institutionalized population control has already been implemented in places like China, the means employed have left monstrous consequences to the degree that the rest of the world looks on the entire idea with suspicion. Still, it's a concept worth exploring, considering the fact that human beings are already living beyond the means of our planet, a condition that will only be exasperated as we continue to create new life and find new ways to prolong the lives already in place. The amusing thing is, Sageman's proposal would almost certainly work, although that's not to say it would be without its own set of consequences.

Concrete is best read by those who enjoy big ideas, exploring and debating the merits of choosing one course or the other. Still, there is enough of the down-to-earth soap opera in The Human Dilemma to appeal to readers who might just be looking for a quirky story.



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