By Mickey Rivera. Punk is one in a long line of youth movements which strike back at the previous generations’ assumptions and expectations. These movements date back to the hippies, the beats, and maybe even further back than that to the European Romantics and their obsession with young geniuses and young deaths. Maybe some caveboy ages ago hated his dad and cut his mane into a mohawk, we don’t know.
Point is: youths rebel and they have for a long time, and that’s a fact that many are somewhat exhausted by, especially when it comes to the overused concept of “punk.” Time and commercialization have wreaked havoc on the movement, as its “rebellious” spirit has been subsumed into the mainstream. Everyone’s just a little over it by now.
It was something of a delightful curveball, then, to find that the protagonist of Punks Not Dead is, at least in this first issue, not particularly rebellious. Writer David Barnett bypasses the baggage that comes with your typical hardcore punk rock protagonist, so laden with mohawks and cynical sneers, and offers up a relatable young lad instead. Fergie, as he’s called, does exhibit some of the hallmark inner turmoil and strangeness that could lead him down the road to studded leather and hair dye. His mother, for one, is a single mom who makes him appear on trashy day-time talk shows with her, presumably for extra dough. Then there’s his father, who he claims was arrested and put away after a failed secret agent assignment/attempted bullion heist — a tall tale likely cooked up by himself, his mother, or his dad.
On top of all this, we first meet Fergie while he’s preparing to be pulverized by a very angry, very beefy school bully. Fergie is dealing with the lies of the media, his mom’s inner loneliness, the fact that he doesn’t really know his dad, as well the existential threat of a bully who wants to pound his face in. It’s a lot for a teen to handle.
Luckily, he finds help of a kind at the airport while returning home from his mom’s gig. In the bathroom of Heathrow airport, poking fun at some poor old man trying to relieve himself at the urinal, Fergie runs into the ghost of none-other-than Sid Vicious! Or anyway, a ghost that looks and acts like a very young, very pimply and rude Sid Vicious. For reason we aren’t yet privy to, Sid becomes unable to leave Fergie’s side, and accompanies him all the way back to his house, and everywhere else from there on out. He’s at Fergie’s side shouting advice and encouragements as the bully revs his fists, and at Fergie’s bedside after the fight goes down.
We’re soon introduced to Dorothy Culpepper, head of a special unit of the British intelligence force known as the Department for Extra-Usual Affairs. Culpepper’s department handles paranormal phenomenon that pose a threat to British security, and to that end has been investigating an uptick in music-related supernatural phenomenon. One such investigation leads her to 10 Downing Street, where Theresa May enlists her help to rid her of an imp infestation.
The imp in question is one of the most rotten looking things you’ll see in comics, and that is a great and wonderful thing. Punks Not Dead has the most beautiful sequential art I’ve seen in mainstream comics in a while. Martin Simmonds executes facial expressions masterfully, and his flowing, stylized forms completely pop off the page with color assists by Dee Cunniffe. Punks Not Dead is absolutely some loud and rowdy punk rock for your eyeballs.
If I have gripes about this issue, their mainly about character building. Fergie’s seems like a nice kid, but we don’t get to know much about him. While I feel bad for any poor nerd who’s about to potentially get the shit kicked out of him by a bully, I would have liked to know a little more about this poor nerd in particular. One thing which is notably absent, and which I would think is crucial to a comic named “Punks Not Dead,” is Fergie’s own relationship to music. The most we get in this regard is a shot of Sid rummaging through Fergie’s mom’s record collection. Oh, and then a shot of Fergie laying despondently in his bed wearing a Smiths shirt, bemoaning his wretched existence (an admittedly appropriate use of a Smiths t-shirt).
Nonetheless, there’s room enough for character building, and there’s time for exposition and more grand reveals and everything else that can make a comic truly great. Punks Not Dead #1 is an uncannily pretty comic with bizarre secrets to share. Due to the sublime artwork, the enticing plot, and the sheer energy behind this book, I can’t help but recommend you pick it up.
Black Crown/IDW Publishing/$3.99
Written by David Barnett.
Art by Martin Simmonds.
Color flats by Dee Cunniffe.
Letters by Aditya Bidikar.
8 out of 10
Feast your eyes on this six-page preview of ‘Punks Not Dead’, courtesy of Black Crown and IDW Publishing!