Decadence Comics, 2012
£10 including international shipping (cheaper in the UK)
Buy it from Decadence
I went back and forth about opening this review with “Whoosh, is this thing good,” but the ayes have it: Whoosh, is this thing good. In fact it’s fair to say that I returned to semi-regular reviewing of comics in large part to have an excuse to read this remarkable-looking self-published small-print-run science-fiction adventure and write about it publicly. The unique, tactile packaging helped draw me in: It’s printed on that rough, cheap paper your third-grade handwriting practice workbooks came on, with a weary-looking blue cardstock/construction-paper cover to boot. But the content is just as fascinating, particularly writer/artist/publisher Lando’s ultrathin, ultraprecise line. It looks as though he took the finest-point rollerball pen available and went about painstakingly constructing each laser-toting astronaut, each toga-wearing revenant, and each weathered Greek column and angular laser beam and grain of sand in their eerie retrofuture wasteland by stopping every few millimeters or so, picking up the pen, putting it back down, and starting the line again, just to make sure he got it right. “Scratchy”‘s the word that keeps presenting itself to me, but it’s not the right one at all. There’s a meticulousness to this roughness that scratchy doesn’t cover, and it elevates the SF story, about a pair of visitors from space attacking their enemies — both living and dead — and defending one another as they make their way toward some maguffiny goal in the center of what looks very much like Greek ruins, but for the desert wasteland surrounding them. That particular irony of setting, and the titular reference to the coming spectacle of sport in the artist’s native country, indicate that this could very well be a scathing metaphorical commentary on kill-or-be-killed austerity economics and its beneficiaries. (Indeed, the artist makes that pretty clear on his website, though I’m loathe to lend too much credence to authorial intent.) Personally, I missed the Hunger Games/Running Man bread-and-circuses nature of the action on first read and instead read it as a savage, though savagely thrilling, war comic of sorts. Either way, Lando’s skill with pacing and action choreography is tough to match among people making these kinds of alt-SFF comics today; his perspectival cross-cutting between embattled areas, and his use of blankly linear lasers to traverse that space and shift our viewpoints, is especially exciting. All told it’s the kind of comic where the main shortcomings are best expressed as matters of personal preference — it’s wordless and soundless, while I tend to feel that silent comics make the most sense when the events depicted involve actual silence; it uses irregular panel layouts, while I believe the elegance of a fixed grid would have been quite complementary to the precision of the linework and character/set design. If this kind of thing sounds at all like your bag, and if you’re reading this blog chances are it does, fire up your currency converter and hope he’s got some copies left.