Are you looking forward to a new comic book but it’s impossible for you to wait for its release before you know what we thought about it? That’s why there’s DoomRocket’s Advanced Reviews—now we assess books you can’t even buy yet. This week: ‘Punk Mambo’ #1, out April 24 from Valiant.

Cover to ‘Punk Mambo’ #1. Art: Dan Bereton/Valiant

THIS ADVANCED REVIEW OF ‘PUNK MAMBO’ #1 CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS.

by Clyde Hall. Given un rapide coup d’œil (a Cajun quick-look), Victoria Greaves-Trott may seem a punked-out imitation of John Constantine. Both ballsy Brits, both mages, both incanting ritual rote while sticking to their own codes of propriety and sneering at ‘tradition’. Neither giving a flying…fig how that frosts anyone else’s sugarcane. Peer past those similarities. You’ll discover a powerful Vodou practitioner and an early arcanepunk hero.

Punk Mambo first appeared in Shadowman #13, 2003. (If you’re saying, “Right, I’ve ‘ad the skinny on PM from the outset, ain’t I, ya tosser?”, skip on ahead.) Introduced when she tried to help Jack Boniface free himself from the Shadowman loa that grants him his powers, she eventually teamed with Ninjak to take the quest to the Deadside.

As cyberpunk and steampunk expanded from their 70s and 80s roots, arcanepunk became an online topic around 2007. While PM may not fit all the genre strictures, she’s a trendsetting inclination that direction. Now she’s back, kicking mazanga and turning cannibals vegan in Valiant’s Punk Mambo #1.

She’s about her business as the story opens, that business being as a Vodoun priest available for hire. (Good work, especially if you’re the rebellious or bedeviled sort functioning under the radar of most public service hero-types.) In modern New Orleans, business is good. When we find her, she’s tracking down a few young friends gone missing, ‘friends’ loosely translated to anyone who tolerates her hanging ‘round without being judgmental twits. Whispers circulate that the group may have skirted too near a backwoods that, local legend has it, serves as feeding grounds for the Grunch. The Grunch are remnants of a cannibal family spurned by proper society generations past and relegated to swampy woodlands outside New Orleans. Inbred and deformed, they’re primal humans predominantly craving long pork and procreation. Think the Papa Jupiter clan from The Hills Have Eyes with less people skills and transplanted to bayou country.

Since making even marginal associates as bratwurst for your family cookout sits poorly with PM, she spellweaves her way through the clan to free their captives. We learn that, unlike most practitioners, Punk Mambo doesn’t act as a mortal ‘horse’ for a powerful loa from the spirit realms. In typical punk fashion, she’s eschewed that practice and made a loa her ‘horse’, harnessing its power in the material world.

The backwoods trogs get roasted and squished like overlarge s’mores before gaining a reprieve when PM suffers an unexpected setback. Returning everything to rights for Punk Mambo requires a road trip to Haiti, the gri-gri for future installments of this 5-part series.

Writer Cullen Bunn has been nominated for awards with names like ‘Ghastly’ and ‘Stoker’ as well as ‘Eisner’, giving him a homecourt advantage with the Punk Mambo source material. He frees the hero and lets her show you who she is, what she’s capable of, and where you can get off if you don’t fancy it. Bunn nuances situations showcasing PM as a major ‘caster harnessing great forces but not reliant on her pet loa alone. She’s true to early punk subculture, with disdain for the mainstream, rejection of pretenses, an advocate of rebellious authenticity. In Bunn’s hands, PM doesn’t even suffer visitations from Vodoun Fairy Godmothers gladly. Especially after she throws shade on Victoria’s less punkish entertainment choices.  

Keeping Punk Mambo’s spell effects rooted in elemental forces is Adam Gorham—no sparkly enchantments where PM’s concerned. Gorham renders her glamour as damage-dealing hex bolts, as blistering, raw, and sharp as her musical tastes. Softer Vieux Carré scenes display a more traditional side of his talent, but he uses both to establish a precept for issue #1: PM may have to tread more orthodox magick pathways, allowing the spirits of the arcane to use her rather than her wielding them like a cudgel for the challenges ahead. Or not. PM’s resistance to Fairy Godmotherly advice holds for now.

Jose Villarrubia keeps his Grunch Road colors deeply drained until the blood and the howling commence. Letterer Dave Sharpe adds unearthly bellows to the violent milieu, the better to punctuate unfettered levels of sorcerous carnage. Sharpe also deviates lettering colors in some portions, granting a lighter tone to New Orleans scenes while Villarrubia never abandons his shadows. The colorist maintains a murk of narrow European facades in lieu of pursuing touristy carnival swatches. Together, they reveal the Crescent City PM haunts, her refuge. Maybe her comfort, though she’d be hard put admitting.

It’s telling that Victoria exacts no cash for services rendered this issue. Instead, she settles for being owed a future favor. Her earlier situation, one requiring an outside assist to prevail, has left an impression. PM’s choice belies the serious confrontations she anticipates. The loner Lizard Queen may not want anyone’s help, but she may not survive without it.  

Valiant / $3.99

Written by Cullen Bunn.

Art by Adam Gorham.

Colors by Jose Villarrubia.

Letters by Dave Sharpe.

7 out of 10

‘Punk Mambo’ #1 hits stores April 24.

Check out this 5-page preview of ‘Punk Mambo’ #1, courtesy of Valiant!

Cover A by Dan Brereton.
Cover B by Zu Orzu.
Cover C by Cris Delara.
Punk Variant Cover by Dan Brereton.
Pre-order Variant Cover by Adam Gorham.

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