Every issue of Colonel Weird: Cosmagog merits multiple reads. It’s the kind of series that elicits exactly the response it wants to, but it’s rarely a comfortable response. The first issue was excruciatingly vulnerable; the second was slow and beautifully simple. Dark Horse’s Colonel Weird: Cosmagog #3, written by Jeff Lemire, with art, letters, and colors by Tyler Crook, is deliberately frustrating. It invites us into the mind of Colonel Weird, a man who is caught up in the tide of time, and shows what it’s like to feel powerless.
One of the most notable things about Colonel Weird: Cosmagog #3 is how repetitive it feels. Most of the scenes Lemire shows us are essentially things we already know. We know Weird went into the Para-Zone; we know what happened to Eve. Without any major new revelations, the script could feel flat. But what makes Lemire’s script work is that we’re not alone in this knowledge. Weird knows all of this even more thoroughly than we do. And so, we’re witnessing Weird make all the same mistakes. “I am… very sorry…” he whispers to an alien before blowing it to pieces. Lemire’s use of dramatic irony is downright infuriating. But Weird’s a character who is powerless to change “the pattern of things.” Surely that would be downright infuriating too.
Crook shows us how painful it is for Weird to follow the pattern set before him. On one page, we see Abraham Slam and Colonel Weird talk as the world falls apart around them. We see Slam call up to him, followed by a close up of Weird looking over his shoulder, agony all over his face. Each panel goes back and forth between the two of them. We get closer to Slam, seeing his panic, even watching events over his shoulder. But we see Weird glide away, becoming more and more distant and smaller on the page. He has to abandon Slam because it’s what he’s done before. Crook shows how disjointed and confusing Weird’s path through time is, by mimicking it in the page layout. No page is symmetrical; the gutters cut the page into uneven pieces, creating twisted paths throughout the issue.
Because Lemire’s script is so drenched in dramatic irony, Crook brilliantly uses his coloring to play against every scene. When we see a young Colonel Weird taking to the stars, the coloring is warm and fun. Crook is making the coloring in that scene feel naive, almost childlike. A bright march towards Weird’s doom. When Crook shows Eve and Weird meeting at night, the scene is dark and intimate. But Crook also uses the darkness to create a foreboding atmosphere. It’s not just two lovers reconnecting, but their last time in each others’ arms. Every scene, every panel, is using the knowledge of what comes next. Crook haunts us through these moments as we rail against what we know is going to happen.
We gradually see Weird lose his mind through his dialogue. When we first hear him speak, it’s the Weird we know. His lines are full of ellipses, showing us his hesitation, and his word balloons are grey and twisted. But then he jumps back into a younger version of himself. His dialogue looks normal and confident. And when we see him years down the line, we’re beginning to see the hesitation and madness sink in. His dialogue is littered with ellipses and often broken up into multiple balloons. In the last scene that we see, his dialogue evolves. His first couple lines look normal, but then suddenly, he’s speaking in the twisted grey balloons we’ve come to know. It’s a visual representation of Weird’s mind-melting away.
Dark Horse’s Colonel Weird: Cosmagog continues to be a delight. Sure, this issue is pretty frustrating in its repetition, but in such a way that we can empathize with Weird’s own frustration. We see just how infuriating it is to be in control of nothing. Once again, Lemire and Crook make their most mysterious character beautifully human. Pick up Colonel Weird: Cosmagog #3, out today from Dark Horse Comics, at a comic shop near you!