Due out on Wednesday, July 10th, this review comes in advance with a few spoilers. Don’t read on if you want to preserve what promises to be a fantastic reading experience.
There have been some classic opening scenes to start a few comic book series. Some of the best that come to mind are Miller and Mazzuchelli’s Batman: Year One, Brian K. Vaughan’s Y: The Last Man, and Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles. They’re iconic and make a bold statement.
Mortimer and Robertson’s Ballistic turns the iconic opening scene approach on its head with a humorous send up of a future world that is dangerous, sadistic, and downright funny. Enter the anti, anti-hero: Butch the HVAC repairman.
Butch is a bit soft in the head with dreams of grandeur in becoming the next John Dillinger. There’s no angel on his shoulder and only a devil in his holster – a living gun that likes to mouth off, kill, and do drugs. While the gun has no official name, the object of Butch’s desires likes to call him Bang Bang.
Now to take a moment to pause and reflect. Ballistic is cut from the same cloth as Robertson’s transcendent work on Transmetropolitan. However, Butch is no Spider Jerusalem. At best, they would pass each other on the street. Spider wouldn’t even drink in the same bar as Butch, and that’s what makes Ballistic and Butch so awesome.
There was always a serious message in the underlying themes of Transmetropolitan, which is what gave the story its unique place in the world of comic books. Ballistic is completely irreverent in its send-up of a screwed up future society. While Robertson’s idiosyncratic art links the two and invites comparisons, Mortimer’s sensibility for story and humor is what sets the two apart.
While tempting to compare the two (like I just did), Ballistic has its own identity and deserves a separate consideration. Mortimer and Robertson are keenly attuned to the lowest common denominator of society and its expansive, infectious growth into the future. Basically, the future is full of morons.
Robertson has a reputation for being a great story collaborator with the writers he works with, and it’s not hard to see his fingerprints all over the quirky aspects of the story. If you want to see how a splash page should be done, look no further than the beginning. There really is no one like him when it comes to rendering sequential art. Everything he does is fluid and indelible with the expressiveness of the characters.
In a lot of ways, Ballistic is a buddy story at its heart but very much in an Odd Couple way as Butch and Bang Bang can’t even pull off their first, big heist together because Bang Bang is still tore up from doing drugs all night. It’s that completely random, absurdist look at the future with complete irreverence for traditional comic storytelling that puts Ballistic right up there with Fred Van Lente’s Archer & Armstrong for being the funniest, most addictive story of recent comic book memory. It’s my pick of the week.