I was hoping that this Peter Milligan-written miniseries about sex, the world of high finance, revenge, and an esoteric sci-fi concept would be one of the projects from the notoriously hit-or-miss writer that actually hit. Instead, “The Names” turned out to be one of his less interesting failures. The story kicks off when Kevin Walker, to all outward eyes a successful broker with a life to be envied, commits suicide by jumping from his high-rise office. Katya, his wife, is stunned by this act and knows that there has to be more going on here. She’s right. Kevin was a member of The Names, a secret conspiracy masterminded by a shadowy cabal of capitalists who manipulate world markets for their own ends and employ ruthless operatives with names like The Surgeon to take care of anyone who gets out of line. While Katya tracks them down with the help of Kevin’s son Philip -- a teenager whose genius at math is equalled only by his horniness -- The Names are dealing with a problem of their own. Specifically, the “Dark Loops:” programs that they’ve created which have gained sentience and are threatening to not only bring the whole conspiracy down, but the world along with it.
If you’re partial to Milligan’s style, then there’s some entertainment to be gleaned from his dialogue (which is arch and absurd in equal measure), oddball concepts like the League of Psychopaths, as well as his general skewering of unrestrained capitalism. You’ll also be more likely to tolerate Philip who seems to exist just to make life more difficult for the entire cast. I do have a hard time imagining that anyone will be satisfied with the outcome of this story which doesn’t so much end as simply come to a halt. Even though this was solicited as a nine-issue miniseries, it reads like an ongoing title that was cut short after nine issues. There’s no real satisfying wrap-up here, particularly in regards to the “Dark Loops” which are never evolve beyond a deus ex machina-esque plot device. At least the art from Leandro Fernandez is a lot of fun to take in. Fernandez has always had a penchant for caricature and here he goes into it full-tilt, which proves to be a good match for the general absurdity of the plot. Even so, this mix of intriguing plot elements never really comes together in a way that fully engages you or allows me to recommend it to anyone beyond Milligan completists.