Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

Here’s a Kickstarter you might be interested in!

As I’ve noted before, I don’t back too many Kickstarter projects because that would get spendy, but I do like the platform and think it’s a cool way for creators to get their work out there. I will back them if the creators are good, there are several tiers so it’s not too much money if I don’t want to spend too much, and, honestly, if I like the creator(s). So here’s one you might find interesting, and I can even review the actual book, as I have a digital copy of it!

Jason McNamara, who’s a good writer, an awfully cool guy, and someone who hates loud, hipster bars as much as I do (which is a joke so inside even he might not get it), sent me a copy of his latest comic, Sucker, and told me about the Kickstarter. He said he didn’t expect any publicity, but I write for a pop culture blog, so I’m going to give him some! So let’s take a look at the comic.

Sucker is a vampire story, which seems logical, written by McNamara and drawn by Tony Talbert, who also co-plotted the book with McNamara. The two creators worked together years ago, back when McNamara was first getting started, on some very odd and interesting comics that I’ll have to write about some day. The book is inked by John Heebink and colored by Paul Little, and of course how much it costs is up to how much you’re willing to pledge.

The book begins with two dudes breaking into a storage facility in Manhattan and waking up a vampire, which is never a good thing, and then shifts to a rich dude who just ordered a hooker getting stalked in his fancy apartment. With that set-up, we move to the introductions of the main characters, who constitute a “sucker unit” – groups that once hunted vampires and other supernatural things but have now been put out to pasture. The grumpy old lady who provides the money gets two of them back – the burnt-out dude who just wants to spend time with his young son and the priest who comes in handy because he can bless all the water in sight, making it a useful weapon. We also meet the old medical examiner on the verge of retirement and his protégé, who’s a bit skeptical about everything for a short time until events show her she’s entering a whole new world. The old lady – Sullivan – wants to use vampires to figure out the key to immortality, of course, while the burnt-out dude – Benton – and the priest – Harrison – are there for different reasons – Benton for money, Harrison for spiritual vengeance. They discover that the storage facility was owned by a stockbroker who disappeared in the 1980s and the team now knows is a vampire. He has returned to his old apartment – the one in the beginning of the book – and has gotten to know the hooker, Dani, who’s a lot more integral to the story than she first appears. The team shows up to take him down, and after they manage to capture him, they take him back to their super-secret lab, where shit, as it is wont to do, hits the fan.

As with all stories, especially genre stories, the devil is in the details, and McNamara does nice work thinking about vampires and how they would exist in the “real” world. Of course some unscrupulous businessperson would seek to make money off of them, and Sullivan, for all the good she does, is as monstrous as the vampires she and her team hunt. We get some revelations about what she’s doing to the vampires, and while it doesn’t exactly engender sympathy for them, it does show that there are two sides to the story, and just because you hunt monsters, that doesn’t automatically make you a hero. The weapons the team uses are clever, too, especially the innovative things Harrison can bless to make holy and therefore dangerous to vampires (one scene in particular has to be unique to the annals of vampire fiction, I think). Jacobs, the vampire, is an interesting character, too, as he doesn’t just kill Dani and drain her blood, so at the end of the volume she’s very much alive, but Jacobs seems to have an odd fascination with her. Where that will go is anyone’s guess. It’s an exciting and tense book, but McNamara does a good job through the dialogue, mostly, of giving us insights into the characters and making them a bit more real.

Talbert’s an interesting artist, and he does fine work here. This is an action-packed comic, so he has to do a lot of frenetic work, and he’s up to the task, as he uses speed lines well and his figures are fluid, so they never look stiff as they get flung all over the place during fights. The best thing about the horror and gore (and boy howdy, there’s a bunch of gore in this book, and plenty of nudity as well) is that it’s not just exclusive to the vampires – Talbert does a good job showing what McNamara is hinting at, that humans can be just as nasty as vampires when it comes to inflicting pain. Talbert does nice work on the characters – Benton is the grizzled veteran; Harrison is a bit overweight but still able to kick ass; Albert the medical examiner looks as if he’s spent far too long in a fluorescent-lit lab; Tracey, the new addition, is tough but still innocent-looking, which changes slightly as she gets further in; and Sullivan looks like a ghoul, especially when Talbert draws her wearing an odd hat that looks like a pilgrim’s halo. Talbert, unusual among male artists, actually does pay attention to what people are wearing (I guess it’s stereotypical, but it does seem that female artists are better at drawing “regular” clothing), and the clothes do hint at some of the personalities of the characters, which is interesting. Talbert also has some really nice page layouts – he uses steam as panel borders occasionally, does some nice overlays of smaller panels to cram a lot of visual information onto the page without cluttering it too much, and he uses small panels interspersed among the larger ones during the fight scenes to convey little pieces of information that add to the overall gestalt. There’s also a terrific page near the end where things begin to hit the fan that Talbert designs so that the evil seems to flow across the panels, which is very clever. Talbert does an excellent job with the horror of the book, but he’s also good enough to make the setting realistic, so it’s even more disturbing. Little does nice work with the coloring – obviously, there’s going to be a lot of red, but he still manages to use it judiciously to make an impact, and he wisely uses blues and greens a lot to make the red pop a bit more when it does show up. Even with the cooler colors, the book isn’t dark, and we can see the line work very clearly. It’s a good blend of pencil/inks and color, and the book looks great.

The biggest problem I have with the book is that it ends on a cliffhanger. This isn’t something McNamara and Talbert try to hide in the Kickstarter, and McNamara writes that volume 2 is already written, so depending on the success of this, we might get more volumes, which would be keen. But it’s something to know, and while it’s still a good comic, it’s something you should know about it.

Anyway, Here’s the link to the Kickstarter. It runs until 7 June, and they’re doing pretty well so far at reaching their goal, but every bit helps, right? If you like adventure comics with some horror added and the slightest bit of social commentary, go check it out. Tell them I sent you and … well, nothing, but I’ve always wanted to be able to get you something extra if I send you there, so I’m just practicing for that day!

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