When I was a younger man I disliked performers who hopped across mediums. I felt like it wasn’t fair (of course when you’re 16, like, nothing is like, ever fair, you know?) that just because somebody could sing well they also got to write books. Looking back I have no idea why this bothered me so much. I would see books by Jimmy Buffet and my blood would rage. “Get back on the stage and sing about Pina Coladaberg!” I’d think haughtily. Now I’m no longer hastily judging the exploits and achievements of professional entertainers, unless they write comics, in which case I judge the hell out of them (but not hastily, natch.) This is just to say, (introducing the) Ghostface Killaaaaaaaaah has a comic coming out this week and despite what my adolescent self might have thought, it’s quite good.
It’s not just Ghostface’s joint though, you’ve heard WU, you know he rolls deep. This time he’s bringing a whole host of super talented people with him to give you 12 Reasons To Die. Writer Matt Rosenberg was contacted by Rza (Bobby Digital) about adapting Ghostface’s new record to a comic. Eventually the team realized that something bigger and cooler could be realized if the book was a companion piece rather than a straight adaptation. According to writer Rosenberg “…some of my ideas ended up on the record and some of their ideas ended up in my book.” That right there is a reason to get excited for this book, because it’s not just a “lets throw a rappers name on a piece of crap and hope some suckers buy it”, it’s an actual artistic melding of minds, it’s an exchange of ideas and the result is pretty excellent and unlike anything else you’ll find on the racks.
Each issue of the book will contain 2 separate stories, a crime story in Italy in the late ’60s and a horror story that takes place in the mid ’80s. Each story is done by different artists, with Breno Tamura (PIGS) and Gus Storms (SPACE CREEP) drawing the main stories with a shifting roster of guest artists providing the flashbacks that connect the stories. The list of illustrators who have signed on to do covers and guest interios is unbelievably impressive, Paolo Rivera, Tim Seeley, Nate Powell, Ramon Perez, Shaky Kane, Phil Noto, Tony Moore, Ron Wimberly, Joe Infurnari, Francesco Francavilla, Tyler Crook, Toby Cypress, Anders Nilsen, Garry Brown and Jim Mahfood just to name a few (with more to be named later). Also providing lettering is Frank Barbiere who’s new Image book Five Ghosts has been talked about (and praised) here on BC. And it’s put out by Black Mask Studios who put out books as boundary pushing as they are beautiful as they are disturbing as they are necessary (Occupy Comics? Godkiller? You can not disagree.)
So how is the first issue? It’s hard like the fists of a postwar Italian street thug, but it’s hot like shotgun blasts in a crowded disco. It’s strange like a mystery record and it’s weird like killer sheep. I’m throwing all kinds of references at you that you won’t understand until you pick up issue 1. The first part of the tale involves the Deluca crime family, their rise to power and their eventual blood soaked meeting with (Ghostface’s alter ego), Anthony Starks. The second part of the story involves a record hunter (or “crate digger” as they prefer to be called) who brings a mystery piece of vinyl to a wealthy old man with a story to tell and a job offer.
The components of the story, even after just one issue, are already lining up in my head as I try to figure out whats going to happen next. It’s an ingenious way of telling a tale, hopping around in time while slowly dropping hints and haunts of whats to come or whats come before. This is a dark violent comic with artists who clearly have a tight grasp on exactly what that means. Tamura’s raw style draws to mind shades of Sean Murphy while still being kinetic and rough enough to be a style of his own. Jean-Paul Csuka nails the colors giving both sections the perfect amount, when the story changes to the ’80s you can already tell, it looks like you’re watching a late night cable horror show in all the best ways. Gus Storms displays vicious skill as he drafts a nightmare of blood, bosses, bees and business.
I’m a big fan of companion pieces as a rule. I think American Psycho is as great a film as it is a book, both parts offering something to the audience, bringing the pieces of Bateman together in a satisfying way. So I can’t tell you how excited I am to be able to experience 12 Reasons To Die, the comic, the album, the whole bloody mess. Talented people, telling the stories they want to tell, the way they want to tell them, that’s what comics should be all about.