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: ‘Punks Not Dead: London Calling’ #1, out February 27 from Black Crown, an imprint of IDW Publishing.
THIS REVIEW OF ‘PUNKS NOT DEAD: LONDON CALLING’ #1 CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR ‘PUNKS NOT DEAD, VOL.1’.
by Jarrod Jones. It almost seems as though the labyrinthine twists in the first volume of Punks Not Dead were written just to achieve this punk tribute moment: “London Calling”! It’s cheeky. It’s obvious. I love it. Comics and music, er, clash once more (please forgive me this trespass) in Black Crown’s riotous ruffian rouser, leaner, meaner, more full of life somehow, even when its pages are populated by the threat of oblivion.
Punks Not Dead: London Calling is Black Crown’s first sequel series, a celebratory moment for the IDW Publishing imprint and a serious feather in the caps of David Barnett, Martin Simmonds, Dee Cunniffe and Aditya Bidikar. The band’s back together, gloriously; there’s a harder edge to their united craft and it’s all looking rather sharp.
That creative sophistication is, unsurprisingly, very on-brand for Black Crown, which has evolved its rebellious sensibilities in this new wave: Euthanauts, House Amok, Lodger, they’re all undeniably a part of Shelly Bond’s ever-growing Canon Street schematic, but these stories are… heavier, imbued with emotional and existential meaning, committed to trouncing life’s many specters of dread. Black Crown has revealed itself as an imprint dedicated to living—passionately, yes, but with purpose. Even a buck-wild corker like Punks Not Dead has stepped into its second phase with a clearer sense of duty to its social defiance. Come out of the cupboard, you boys and girls, and don’t forget to jettison your ennui; there are forces of darkness to smash… with a rather expensive electric guitar, naturally.
First, the particulars: Young Feargal “Fergie” Ferguson inadvertently yanked a ghost away from his Heathrow haven and now he has a pimply punk as his new best friend. Fused at the hip, Fergie and Sid (yes, he thinks he’s Sid Vicious) investigate how this strange occurrence has lent our teenage chum paranormal abilities, the use of which is believed to have resulted in the death of a school bully. With the cops actively searching for Fergie, his impossibly cool mum (who seems to be suffering a bit of pre-Feargal amnesia) sends him away to London, where answers to the many, many questions circling his mysterious, presumed-dead father lie in wait.
Oh, and Fergie’s besieged by two advancing fronts in a supernatural war: on one side is the ghastly Bobby, who’s out on a bloody rampage for Fergie and Sid; on the other is Dorothy Culpepper and Asif Baig of MI5’s Department for Extra-Usual Affairs, the former being the one person who may be truly responsible for Fergie’s current predicament. And I haven’t even mentioned Natalie, the wild card in this set who is dedicated to figuring out why nerdy Fergie is all of a sudden the only thing she can think about.
It’s a lot to sift through—in fact, I hesitate to recommend the uninitiated jump on this debut without having read the first volume (you can buy a digital version of it for a paltry $3.99 here)—but all of it is so incredibly worthwhile, arresting, amusing, terrific. I wonder if London Calling will have a boffo character-focused installment as in Vol. 1, issue #5, which centered on mod-tastic government spook Dorothy Culpepper and might have been the defining chapter of Punks Not Dead thus far. (Perhaps we’ll come to know Fergie’s mum a bit more? What’s up with Asif, I ask you?) As it stands, Punks Not Dead: London Calling #1 sets the stage for all sorts of punk mayhem, and it works overtime to remind us that a reckoning is coming for all parties involved, one that seems designed to end in tragedy.
I can’t wait for more. Especially since Barnett & Simmonds appear to have sharpened their contemporary observations: London Calling, sure, but Fergie and Sid aren’t navigating the grim British industrial hellscape as envisioned by The Clash. This is a softer, more spiritually perilous Disneyland embroiled in morale-busting Brexit, where the once-rousing shouts of “No Future” now feel like a bitterly-dismissed pep talk. Fergie’s new strengths are stirring a passion in people that they haven’t felt in an age—Culpepper believes these powerful reactions stem from music, but she knows that feeling of dissatisfaction, brought on by generations of societal malaise, doesn’t need much of a trigger for it to explode from our hearts. But it does need a proper anthem to march to.
Think The X-Files directed by early-career Danny Boyle, and you’re about there. Ghost stories and deep government conspiracy, soppy teen romance and kitchen sink drama, all of it guided by an elemental spirit that belongs to us all. That’s Punks Not Dead, back, better than ever.
Black Crown/IDW Publishing/$3.99
Written by David Barnett.
Art by Martin Simmonds.
Color flatting by Dee Cunniffe.
Letters by Aditya Bidikar.
Edited by Shelly Bond.
8 out of 10
‘Punks Not Dead: London Calling’ #1 drops February 27.
Check out this killer variant to ‘Punks Not Dead: London Calling’ #1 by Rafael Albuquerque, courtesy of Black Crown and IDW Publishing!