Comics Time: Cold Heat #5/6

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Cold Heat #5/6

BJ & Frank Santoro, writers/artists

PictureBox, Inc.

48 pages

$20 (limited edition of 100 copies)

Buy it from PictureBox

Cold Heat was truly tailor-made for my enjoyment. Combining genre storytelling with avant garde art and layout, minimalist linework with maximalist psychedelia, shoegazey atmosphere with cotton-candy colors with Kurt Cobain and Ziggy Stardust references with teen-angsty sex, drugs, and violence…basically, even if Cold Heat didn’t exist, it would be necessary for me to invent it. I never thought I’d get the chance to hold a new single issue of Cold Heat in my hands again, so on that level alone, the existence of this comic book (a double-issue, technically, but who’s counting) is cause for rejoicing, regardless of the execution.

Fortunately, the execution is killer. I think the standout story element in this installment is just how far Jones and Santoro are willing to take the Senator Wastmor character in terms of making him an embodiment of elite-political culture at its most loathsome, a sort of fever dream of naked cruelty, avarice, rapaciousness, and hypocrisy, complete with Uzis, orgies, and shitting on prisoners. It’s reminiscent of C.F.’s Powr Mastrs in terms of imagining Power and those who master it as corrupt, violent, and disgusting.

Visually, the changes here are subtle but important. The introduction of purples to the pink/blue color scheme to flesh out and darken the world a bit. The replacement of the swirling motif with one of diamond-like patterns imposes a new level and form of visual power on the world of the comic. “There’s no turning back” reads a Castle thought-caption at the bottom of a page where this geometric device is at its most prominent, and such is its impact that we absolutely believe her.

This is not to say that it’s all gruesome abuse and overwhelming visuals. Wastmor and his schemes and depredations are an over-the-top goof, at varying times referencing classic abuse-of-authority touchstones from Salo to Illuminatus! to Twin Peaks to Eyes Wide Shut to Revenge of the Nerds; he conducts his final Uzi-toting rampage clad only in thong underwear. Meanwhile there’s a laugh-out-loud dialogue exchange between Castle and her martial-arts instructor, in which they fill each other in on their respective adventures, that revels in the story’s deadplan implausibility in a fashion reminiscent of a similar recent scene in Lost. Like Scott Pilgrim on haphazardly mixed cold meds and anti-depressants, Cold Heat is a true trip, a visionary experience in a medium that should be providing them by the bucketload. Please read it.

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