Mat Brinkman, writer/artist
We tend to think of the breakdown of civilization as a rather stark affair. Things fall apart, the center cannot hold, and before long everything’s a burnt-out husk and people in rags and/or leather underpants are scavenging the wasteland for canned peaches and guzzoline. In keeping with Fort Thunder’s general aesthetic project of information overload, Multiforce imagines the contrary: a replete Ragnarok, a jam-packed apocalypse.
A loosely linked narrative about the warring citizens of a massive mountain redoubt called Citadel City and the even stranger places above and below it, Multiforce‘s serialized strips (they originally appeared in Providence’s visual-noise bible Paper Rodeo) concern themselves primarily with bigness. A giant meets an even bigger giant, who meets an even bigger dragon; little dudes ride around inside the head of a huge dude; skeletal characters dwell in structures and even cities that are shaped like their own skulls, suggesting a preexisting being of almost unimaginable proportions. Half of the book’s narrative juice comes simply from stringing the book’s two protagonists (and the reader) along until the next massive step-up in scale can be revealed. It’s like the comics equivalent of a zoom-out, only suggested through sequential juxtaposition rather than an actual ratcheting back of the viewing plane (that actual technique is seldom if ever used here, to the best of my recollection).
The creatures, which are as gorgeous and inventive and inner-eight-year-old awesome as you’d expect from the product of a man who nowadays makes a living by creating prints of demons and shit, are a constant game of one-upsmanship as well. Brinkman lays this out in an introductory strip, in which we watch a monstrous character who’s super-proud of his awesomely dangerous bionic arm–“I HAVE THE MOST ULTRA ARM IN THE UNIVERSE”–promptly get his clock cleaned by the book’s main, inscrutable antagonist, Battlemax Ace. He’s a battle beast with an axe for one hand and a mace for the other. Yeah, it’s that kinda book. And it’s Battlemax Ace’s unstoppable rampage that brings Citadel City crashing down and provides one of the book’s few genuine narrative and logistical throughlines as he smashes his way through opponent after opponent and level after level. His awesomeness is too powerful to contain.
In many ways these beasties and their navigation of craggy subterranean spaces recalls Brinkman’s landmark collection Teratoid Heights, but that book’s wordless fervor gives way to Brinkman’s loosey-goosey verbal hijinx–his characters bumble around and talk smack like a crudely lettered cross between the Muppets and the stars of a stoner comedy. So the moments of sheer visual poetry stand out in even starker relief–our heroes flying in a sinuous, continuous curve through a Marc Bell riot of a carnival; a dropped head bouncing and rolling down a massive page-tall mountainside; the aforementioned giant skull. But the main takeaway is a set of civilizations so obliviously concerned with their own business and jaded about their potential annihilation that they’re all pretty much fiddling as Citadel City and its environs burn (and explode and implode and collapse and cave in and get smashed by Battlemax Ace and so on). Our heroes even leaven their soaring last-page getaway with a snort of “yea right.” One, two, three, what are they fightin’ for? Don’t ask ’em, they don’t give a damn.