October 21, 2020

Deceive the devil | Ka Boom blog


“The devil knows more by old than by devil” is a suggestive saying. Like all sayings, tracing its origins is surely in the hands of true downers of the word; that task should not be anything, nothing easy. In my brief dive in Google Scholar, the Virtual Center Cervantes and wikipedias, I have made little clear. Nothing about the origin of such a reliable source phrase; An interesting fact, yes, is that the cunning, and evil, of the devil extends to all languages. An Italian saying reformulates it thus: “The devil is evil because he is old”.

Cover of 'A second chance at Sarah'.
Cover of ‘A second chance at Sarah’.

So deals with the devil invariably often go wrong. In fiction and reality. There is little more fascinating than reading the whole legend about Robert Johnson’s talent and his dabbling with the Prince of Darkness. Lo del Hellbound on my trail it was not simply lyrical; unless, in the artist’s judgment.

Circumloquios aside, today it is time to talk about a man who achieves the impossible: Outwit the devil. Outwit that mythical, inconceivable, ineffable cunning. His name is Johnny and he has exactly 24 hours to get rid of a pact that his wife made as a teenager with the devil, and that in the future, in their common future, it will cost him to lose her. The fascinating thing is that the comic makes us land, without prior notice, in that dilemma with a resource of the usual in the fantastic: time travel.

The tension is multiple. Can Johnny stop Sarah from making a pact with the devil? Will avoiding it cause death of your unborn child? What are the consequences of avoiding a greater evil in the long distance? Or to exchange one evil for another evil?

These kinds of questions haunt the writer of this novel, Neil Druckmann, to the marrow. If they are somewhat into video games, they will know that he is the creator of a billionaire saga called The last of us 2. If they follow the Culture section of this newspaper, they will also know that he is suffering terrible harassment – he and his entire team – for daring to include a diverse representation in your game; for doing what another veteran of the video game, David Gaider, expressed so well during an interview: “Reflect the people you see on the street. Because on the street there are gays, lesbians, and trans. And if you don’t want them in your game, then ask yourself what you do with reality. “


Full-page bullet point for 'A second chance at Sarah'.enlarge photo
Full-page bullet point for ‘A second chance at Sarah’.

But, as Jorge Morla said well in the article in this house, the artistic interest is elsewhere. The cycle of violence and its devastating effects seem to be the great theme of Druckmann in his games. But really the theme that obsesses him, and going to this graphic novel reveals it crystalline, are the consequences. Consequences for violence, for love, for guilt, for lies. The last of us 1 & 2 they play a specular role in representing the consequences of violence.

But Uncharted 4. A thief’s end it does the same, already from its title, with the breaking of promises that leads, as consequences, to the wear and tear of a couple. About the vital change that must be made if one wants to undertake a common commitment with the person he loves. On choosing, in short, between dreams and family. Drake begins in that game falling in love with his dreams again to decide, for the consequences that this has on his partner, to abandon them again for what is truly precious to him.


Full page of 'A second chance at Sarah'.enlarge photo
Full page of ‘A second chance at Sarah’.

Johnny lives a much more extreme situation than any of the Druckmann characters. His girlfriend, Sarah, doesn’t even know him the day the pact is going to happen. Well, by sight, yes, but he doesn’t know at all that he’s going to be the man he wants to forge a future with. Inside the teenager who is Johnny there is an adult who has lived the fact of losing his wife, getting old and dealing with the overwhelming trauma of raising a son as a widower, remembering in his growing up everything he loved about the absent and facing day after day the terrible question: “What was Mom like”.

During the scant 100 pages of the comic, the pressure is constant. Before and after Johnny decides to take the leap of faith and change the things they know happened. Druckmann’s talent for writing natural, fresh, spontaneous dialogues is combined with a resource that he cannot use in the video game, or at least cannot use with the type of experience he is looking for: voiceover. In the posters Druckmann unravels Johnny’s obsessions with everything that could go wrong and good in his crazy adventure. It makes you even sweaty to see how much it tears you to see your Sarah alive, completely unaware of the deadly pact that he is about to sign.

Only Druckmann is wrong, in my opinion, in the final pages. The bad thing is that he is wrong twice. The first mistake is to solve a crucial moment in ellipsis, which also gives agency to its true protagonist: Sarah, since Johnny does not stop fulfilling the role of emissary, even though his point of view articulates the work. The second mistake is how you solve it. I think that both an end in the air, cut off, and an end with harsh consequences, scars, for the characters would have worked perfectly.

Druckmann, who knows if due to the insecurities that every author feels when he leaves his comfort territory to explore in other seas, settles for a very blunt ending; very easy. But this is not a derogation of how well he is given to speak of the consequences, to deceive the devil or succumb to his tricks. Of how gray is always what seems black and white. How impossible it is to know, with certainty, the weight of each and every one of our choices.

Angel Luis Sucasas He is the narrative director of Tequila Works and a novelist in editorials such as Planeta, Nevsky or Dolmen Editorial.

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