Comic Review – Ballistic, Volume 1 from Black Mask Studios

Ballistic - Vol. 1

Ballistic – Vol 1

A $14.99 Trade Paperback,
Written by Adam Egypt Mortimer
Art by Darick Robertson
From Black Mask Studios
Adam Egypt Mortimer and Darick Robertson’s Ballistic from Black Mask Studios is now out, collecting the 5-issue mini-series as a fully realized trade.

The Premise

Ballistic focuses on an HVAC repairman whose heroes are classic gangsters and an organic living weapon, respectively known as Butch and Gun. Knowledgeable but lacking street smarts, Butch envisions himself and Gun as partners ready to plunge into the big time underworld of Repo City State, a place that has been genetically engineered into one of the last habitable places on an ecologically devastated Earth.

The Writing

What makes Ballistic stand apart from most comics are two things – its hyper-narrative storytelling structure and incredibly layered artwork. Blink and you might miss something in this ornate tapestry of a comic on parallel with a Hieronymus Bosch painting. This demands to be re-read.

Mortimer and Robertson imagine a future that seems distant, but in many ways isn’t that far away. It’s a dark humored, sardonic take on a world moving closer towards resource conflicts and running amok with living technology that represents the worst of human ambition.

Instead of being a downer, Mortimer and Robertson have created an engaging and hilarious look at future where contagious rage blackouts, flesh eating porno, electric chairs that mock you before they fry you to death and houses that will eat you are the norm.

And if that all sounds too farfetched to buy into, Mortimer’s script annotations, which are drawn from some astute research into biotech, might convince you that this is indeed a possible future world. Add into that the staggering amount of thought and detail put into Repo City State, and you have a dark, twisted vision of humanity.

Part of what makes Ballistic work on whole are the fascinating characters developed and realized by Mortimer and Robertson. Gun might be one the greatest character’s conceived in the last twenty years of comic storytelling. Gun is simply the next evolution of humanity’s violent tendencies and has a fascinating back story that slowly reveals itself into one of those moments you have to read to believe.

Add the hilarious satire profiles of Repo City’s criminals from the electronic media company Big Dick, and you wind up with something resembling an RPG or video game profile. Hands down, Kim Duk Junior is the best with some of the best dialogue in the story, Babo.

Like the narrative, the plotting is dense as the narrative emphasis shifts. Reading this as a trade makes the entire story much easier to follow. Things that were a tad confusing in serial fashion become clear.

Ballistic - Vol 1

The Art

In terms of artwork, Darick Robertson is the man. Few artists could take a hyper-narrative like this and transform it into something that speaks with a combination of visual articulation and artistry. There are layers of story imbedded in each panel that provide a sense of immediacy and exploration.

The splash of Butch flying his car across the city in the early part of the series is a masterpiece reminiscent of Jack Kirby’s inventiveness and Bill Sienkiewicz’s deep hidden meaning that is imbedded in the characters. Detail and nuance are present on each page, leaving the reader with a multi-dimensional experience with each page turn.

Colorist Diego Rodriguez then transforms Robertson’s amazing line work into a beautifully realized composition with vivid and vibrant colors that make the future seem bright despite the darkness on the edge of things. Because of his careful color selections, it makes Robertson’s line work shine while bringing out the organic elements of the story.

Head out to your local comic shop and pick this up. There’s no money back guarantee, but it’s doubtful that you’ll regret it, Babo.

Score 9.5/10


About Dave Gillette

David Gillette is a writer, journalist, and expert on transmedia. He has covered the comic book industry for the last four years and is currently working on his first novel. His first comic book short is due out in 2016.
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