Review by Frank Plowright
Steve Orlando describes Virgil as “queersploitation”, which is as good a description of any for a graphic novel that takes the revenge ethic from the fondly remembered Jamaican film The Harder They Fall, but twists it into the 21st century. Orlando can’t be accused of treading softly, jumping right in with dialogue and attitudes that may offend anyone who knows their Jamaican phrases. That it comes from the police, and continues to come from the police, inflates the outrage. Virgil, our gay protagonist, suffers in concealed silence as people who’re supposed to be his friends and colleagues abhor what they don’t know he is. Not for long. He’s outed and disgraced, his friends are murdered and his boyfriend is missing.
For all that Jamaican culture has given the world, and the tolerance preached by Rastafari, when it comes to accepting gays, Jamaica lags well behind the rest of the Western world. Two decades into the 21st century homophobic assaults and the occasional killing still occur while the authorities turn a blind eye, so Orlando’s choice of a policeman as his lead has a resonance. Beyond that, Virgil has a deadline and a powerful motive, but other people just keep getting in the way. Between the bouts of present day violence Orlando serves up the past, showing how Virgil and Ervan got together, and how they’ve been since.
J.D. Faith’s pages are a work in progress. He can tell a story and switches his viewpoints well, and there’s the necessary energy to the violence, but while he’ll be good one day, his actual drawing isn’t yet the finished article. He’s not helped by Chris Beckett’s colour scheme, a miasma of bright clashing shades, pink and purple to indicate the past.
Given the template, Greetings From Virgil runs a predictable course, the thrill being the ride, not the originality, and remains true to its influences throughout. However, at a cover price of $9.99 for four chapters it’s hardly breaking the bank to give it a try.