Some writers can’t help but batter you over the head with their influences. Every page seems to be dripping with visual asides, quotation based dialog and forced, one dimensional characters that appear to be complex but are made entirely out of the recycled bits of other authors. You see it quite often in a lot of the creator owned scifi books coming out these days, as the field gets more and more cluttered, young creators seem to think that the surest way to critical darlinghood is to simply “do what sells” or at least what sells in the creator owned, sci-fi art market, which is admittedly not X-men dollars. Thankfully Ballistic doesn’t wear it’s influences on it’s sleeve, Mortimer and Robertson are more concerned with actually utilizing the styles and ideas they like to create something new, not merely name drop, posture and pander. This is probably why Ballistic hasn’t made the sizable noise deserving of it, because it’s not desperate enough, it’s too confident and too self assured. Confidence is a threatening thing, just look at how to this day people turn their eyes away from William Shatner, terrified of his uber-masculine glare and hyper-normal sexual prowess.
So there’s bio-organic weaponry in Ballistic but it’s not trying to be David Cronenberg. There’s a nightmarish future where out of control capitalism and demented science paint a picture of ultraviolent madness drawn by Darick Robertson, but it’s not trying to be Transmetropolitan. The language the characters use is unique, ornate, filthy and beautiful but it’s not trying to be Jamie Delano. Ballistic is an out-of-the-gates masterpiece because it has the guts to be it’s own book in a sea of rehashed ideas, overused cliches and interminable intellectual naval gazing. I’m not kidding. I haven’t gotten a rush from a single issue of a comic like this since the first issue of The Manhattan Projects.
In Repo City there’s a fella named Butch with a gun named Bang Bang. He fixes air conditioners and heaters. He also fantasizes about robbing a bank. Also his gun can talk (and do drugs and make out). He’s an outlaw, even though he hasn’t exactly acted like one recently. He has a flying car. He has enemies on both sides of the law and is either terribly brave or terribly stupid. That’s the 30 second “what this book is about” bit if you just HAD to know. But like all the comics that Black Mask has been releasing it’s not JUST about what a tiny story summation would contain.
Believe it or not, a comic named Ballistic actually might not be a blood soaked gun orgy, as we see during Butch’s big bank burgle. Ballistic may be another modern comic that isn’t too big on senseless collateral damage, where the bodies of the security guards and other hapless boobs of the world don’t need to endlessly pile up to prove what a big hero dick our protagonist has.
Ballistic is also Robertson in top form, no, what’s above top form? Super ultra mega form? When Robertson left The Boys, it wasn’t fully explained to readers, but whatever the reason, I took it to be personal in nature. Whenever something happens to an artist I enjoy, be it musical or cinematic or graphically visual, and they need to leave for a little while, for whatever reason, I’m always on their side. I’m probably one of the few Ween fans who was actually happy that the band broke up, seeing as we get to have an alive Aaron Freeman this way, which is worth a lot more than a raucous old fashioned drugged out Ween show. So when Robertson departed, I just hoped that whatever the reason was, he’d return (bio-organic) guns blazing and if you picked up Happy you know that’s exactly the case. But he hasn’t slowed down, in fact, if anything, he’s gotten better. Ballistic treats readers to classic Robertson style future shock, mind melting, landscapes with more eye catching detail than a Chris Ware book (and funnier too!)(which admittedly isn’t hard, have you read some of that Ware fella’s stuff? It’s like having a sobbing genius empath puke humanity into your soul).
Ballistic is a comic about capitalism, but also it’s about relationships, dreams, expectations we have make for ourselves and the lives we try to live. It’s about where our world might end up and where our heads might already be. It takes the world you know and throws it into a drug fueled blender of syphilis and holograms and rabbit porn. Lots of companies try to say “This is the summer of ____!” while trying to get you to pony up for another tits and tights based story of flashy violent nothings, but so far, without breaking a sweat, Black Mask is making it theirs.
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