Required Reading is DoomRocket’s love chest, opened twice monthly to champion a book that we adore. This week Arpad recommends ‘Tumult’ OGN, available now from SelfMadeHero

Tumult OGN

Cover to ‘Tumult’ OGN. Art by Michael Kennedy/SelfMadeHero

by Arpad Okay. A man poised on the brink of success throws it all away, for no reason, in the most selfish fashion possible. While swirling down the drain, he meets a beguiling woman and stumbles over a government conspiracy. It’s her. Adam Whistler is now living a life he never knew he wanted, a gift that he may not survive receiving.

This is Tumult. Twisted noir. The detective is a heel, an anti-hero in a Graham Greene, Holly Martins sense, not finding clues so much as stumbling along behind the bodies, cataloging the pieces. It’s the femme fatale’s story. She does the heavy lifting as far as unraveling mysteries and revealing truths is concerned. Leila. An agent with limited agency, to whom even her actions are somewhat hidden, with Adam as her witness, and us as his.

The story is a secret soldier program. Leila is the matryoshka woman, murderess of many faces. Tumult uncoils as more than a fucked up romance: it’s a well-paced, layered conspiracy. Gen X characters, all sunglasses and cellphones, embroiled in a Cold War retro storyline. Mind control. Mild mysticism. To come to the center takes time, the mystery is to find out what the mystery is. Each barrier removed reveals another doll nested closer to the core. Who is she. What is she. What can be done about what she is.

Nesting doll or Spear of Destiny? Tumult opens with a prophetic three card tarot reading that also reverberates through the story. This is Adam’s arc: Fool, Tower, Death. Blindly stepping into dreams despite the danger of the world. The destruction of everything he has built. The end of the cycle, the beginning of the cycle. John Dunning has wrapped the multifaceted jewel of Leila’s psyche in a simple chamois, Adam’s id.

Michael Kennedy brings those metaphors to life while keeping them sufficiently secret with his highly stylized artwork. Tumult is largely comprised of extreme close ups. People are usually found partially out of frame, or speaking with their back to the camera. It’s a Jean-Luc Godard approach to elevating the mundane, worshipping the act of capturing images.

The composition is exciting because nearly every panel has a person in it and Tumult is characters, relationships, real shit in unlikely circumstances. Yes, murder and machinations and maybe something more, but Tumult electrifies because man, woman, humans, flaws, and we are messed up humans, too.

So when the visual metaphors come, they pack a wallop. Tarot card splash pages, hallucinations, first-person perspective, establishing shots — visual flashes of feeling juxtaposed upon a sea of brows, mouths, cigarettes and stiff drinks. Glimpses of dreams side by side with reality.

I love the heavy inks. Kennedy’s portraits come off cartoonish, just barely on this side of serious. A charming indie feel that works as a zine throwback analog to the guerrilla filmmaking shotbook the style follows. It reminds me of Paul Pope with all the little detail touches Pope does, a middle ground between Raymond Pettibon and Gary Panter. Just the big brushes. Bold, controlled, straightforward, and pure. Minimal framing that beautifully compliments the story. This isn’t some Pinewood Studios blockbuster spy story. It is, actually, but it isn’t told that way. Instead Tumult is Gregg Araki pulp hipster chic.

Tumult’s colors give the story an alien beauty, rarely corresponding to reality or emotion. Greens, purples, deep indigo grays, vivid grapefruit and faded lemon. Either there is a block of dark color that underscores the heavy blacks or an inhuman Easter egg dip, a two drop batique. Not jewel tones, not pastel, Kennedy creates an eerie world of summer storms through stained glass.

Tumult tells a tale of warped love that draws influence from across the decades. A retro suspense thriller. Flawed characters. Psychoanalysis. The timeless stuff like murder, love, rebels without a cause. Forbidden fruit and those dumb enough to pick it. People over purpose, told with great intention. Post-modern synthesis, all of this rolled up, touched with contemporary technique, told with an excess of ink and unparalleled vision. La Nouvelle Vague de bandes dessinées.


Written by John Harris Dunning.

Illustrated by Michael Kennedy.

Colored by Michael Kennedy.

Lettered by Michael Kennedy.


Check out this five-page preview of ‘Tumult’, courtesy of Self Made Hero! 

More Required Reading…

Bold, frightening ‘Infidel’ a battle of faith and vision, of optimism against pessimism

‘I Am a Hero’ a zombie epic with maggots, teeth, broken bits — and at its center, a beating heart

‘Mirenda’ a fantasy tale of unlikely characters meeting at even more unlikely crossroads