BILLI 99

Sarah Byam, Author, Tim Sale, Illustrator, Tim Sale, Joint Author . Dark Horse $13.95 (200p) ISBN 978-1-56971-819-3

In the post-apocalyptic city of Sulter, anarchy is barely kept in check. Luckily, the Sword of Toleado, a "short fat guy in a suit with a Spanish sword," pops up when danger menaces the innocent inhabitants of the Cordon, Sulter's no-man's land filled with miscellaneous downtrodden types. Who is this man in a mask? As it turns out, he isn't a man at all. Originally the alter-ego of Ray Chadam, a benign capitalist whose Chadam International corporation provides honest pay for honest work, the Sword of Toleado is now his daughter, Billi. A flesh-and-blood hero with a wholly believable body and face, Billi took over when her dad was murdered; she's big, strong and committed to carrying on her father's work. She's also on the run, having been accused of his murder by her corrupt uncle. With a plot that's equal parts murder mystery, superhero tale and corporate spy game, the action can be hard to follow, especially since the long-faced heroes and villains all look more or less alike. Is that Billi's uncle tossing a homeless woman off a skyscraper? Readers will have to flip pages to know for sure. The effort pays off, however, as the story winds its way from the Cordon to Chadam International's corporate boardroom. Sale's gray-scale future is beautifully bleak, with dreamy visions of the decay to come. Even the graffiti has a gauzy charm and, in the end, the pleasures of seeing the future saved by a spiritual heir of Zorro are too good to miss. (June)

Reviewed on: 05/19/2003
Release date: 10/01/2002
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