When I first heard about Multiple Warheads: Alphabet to Infinity I had no idea who Brandon Graham was and the solicit didn’t particularly sound exciting:
Sexica and her Werewolf boyfriend Nikoli travel across a sci-fi, fantasy Russia smoking singing cigarettes.
Meanwhile the organ hunter Nura is sent out with a severed head and instructions to find its body.
I mean, Sexica? That just sounds like it’s going to be such a corny, stupid story. And a werewolf boyfriend? I don’t even like horror. So I ignored it. But I kept coming across all these incredible Image Comics series like Saga, Chew, The Manhattan Projects, and Harvest among others. That combined with Comixology making the first issue free made me decide to take a look. Unfortunately, Comixology does not have the original Oni Press One-Shot where Graham introduced us to Seixca and Nikoli, but Graham does a good job of catching the reader up when the first issue of Alphabet to Infinity starts.
I didn’t know about Graham’s history writing for Erotica comics like Sizzle and Pillow Fight but it certainly makes the casual attitude to sex and sexual issues make a lot more sense. Although they’ve gotten a LOT better over the last decade, DC and Marvel’s LGBT characters can sometimes have a “very special episode” feeling to them. Like – “Look, we’re not prejudiced! We have gay characters and we treat them well!” And while they continue to get better and better, they tend to do a much better job at having multiracial casts where race isn’t a plot point than they do with gender issues. Graham, on the other hand, takes it for granted that a young couple on a long road trip would stop for a quick bit of sex.
Or that there wouldn’t really be much of a need for Sexica to have a modesty blanket alone in a hotel room with Nikoli. After all, they’ve already seen each other naked and have sex, for goodness sake.
Although Sexica DOES still have the modesty blanket over her pelvic region, but I think that’s to allow the book to not be put into the erotica ghetto. Additionally, the person Nura is after appears to be gay or bi and many of the rich appear to be into strange, hedonistic behavior.
Brandon Graham seems to have taken a more realistic and nuanced approach to gender in Multiple Warheads. It is neither the male fantasy we see in DC and Marvel comics nor the indie comic opposite of that. Instead he keeps us on our toes and unable to truly guess if he’s purposely being less sexist or if it’s just the way his mind works. For starters, Sexica is a realistically proportioned woman. While there may be some women who naturally look like the type of women drawn in the super hero comics, many more don’t look like that. Graham doesn’t count on that for cheap titillation.
Nura also represents another female type that’s all-but-absent in comics – the tomboy. And she either binds her breasts or is pretty flat-chested because I didn’t even know Nura was a woman until this panel which also expresses the fact that she doesn’t act like one.
Additionally, in the sex scene mentioned above I didn’t include the image (to keep the site from being categorized as NSFW), but Nikoli is giving Sexica oral sex. And the giver of oral sex is traditionally considered to be the submissive partner. Also, Seixca got Nikoli a wolf penis. I don’t know the circumstances behind this, but the interpretation could be made that it’s definitely a plus for her during sex. And Sexica has the more prestigious job – organ smuggler – while Nik is “just” a mechanic. In the third issue he wonders if maybe she’s too cool for him.
As you see above, Sexica overhears his concerns. At first she’s playful about having overheard, but when she finds out that Nik has told an intimate secret to someone she leaves in a huff. She ends up in a funk and starts to crave the old days of excitement. This eventually leads to her getting involved in a heist that is still unresolved at the end of the fourth issue.
In fact, perhaps annulling my thought process behind why Sexica has a modesty sheet around her pelvic area – we actually see Nikoli’s penis when he’s in the bath. Sure, Sexica spends more panels naked across the four issues, but male nudity is always extremely rare across all visual mediums. In fact, I’d forgotten it was there until I was flipping through the issues to write this post. So, independent of all the other great reasons to read this series, if you want something that’s pretty different, gender-wise, this is a great series to check out.
As mentioned, this story takes place in the future, assuming the Soviet State had continued. There is a lot of sci-fi evolution on Soviet Iconography in the world:
And Brandon makes mention of a surveillance state, but it doesn’t seem to have any consequence to the story. At the very least, it’s setting the environment that the story takes place it. Potentially it will have consequences in the next story arc.
Of course, so far the story seems to be more about the journey than about anything resembling a traditional plot. Of course, I did miss the Oni Press issue so maybe that would change the perspective. Additionally, until the next arc comes out, we won’t know the consequences of Sexica coming out of retirement.
Interestingly, other than the main characters there seem to be more robots or humanoids than humans for the most part. Graham also has nearly all the traditionally inanimate objects able to speak and seem to be alive – from their car to their singing cigarettes to their electricity (ghost-powered). It gives the series an otherworldly feel – almost as though it’s taking place on another planet and it may be the case that this is an alternate universe that just happened to also have a Soviet Russia – in the long run it kinda doesn’t matter plot-wise. It’s best to just enjoy the series and suspend all disbelief about your expectations about the world.
In the end, it’s best to look at Multiple Warheads as a cross between science fiction and fantasy – a sort of sci-fi The Hobbit. And like The Hobbit, it’s really more about the journey and the world building than an over-arching story. There are hints of character growth and in the meanwhile you get to see the incredible world that Brandon Graham has created for these characters to reside in. I know that I look forward to revisiting this story with Comic POW! readers when the series picks up again. If you read it and can’t get enough of this art style and story, Graham has a similar art style on King City, available from Tokyo Pop.
Multiple Warheads: Alphabet to Infinity with artwork and story by Brandon Graham. Buy it on Comixology here.