Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Killapalooza #1

As fabulously decadent, internationally recognized musicians, the members of The Clap shouldn't want for much. They're a part of the biggest band on the planet – drinking, brawling and screaming their way through life, and generally doing whatever they please whenever they like. Or at least, that's what they want you to think. The band parties hard, that much is a fact, but they're also using that worldwide notoriety as a cover for their more illicit activities away from the bright lights and shrill amps of the tour. Not only is the group in demand as musicians, but they're also a hot commodity as a top notch meta-human kill squad, dealing in political assassination by day and punk rock by night.

As you might expect, Killapalooza writer Adam Beechen constantly strives to top himself in terms of nasty violence and inventive use of censored vocabulary. The action doesn't even settle down when the team steps out of their work clothes and settles back into their "civilian" lives as The Clap. Like John Travolta in Pulp Fiction, if every single member of the group is a racecar, they've been running in the red for about fifteen years. They're constantly spoiling for a fight, whether it's with a small terrorist cell, their fans, other bands or each other.

The team's frequent fistfighting and bloodletting leaves little question about their motivations. If these guys can't even slow down long enough to get lights-out drunk together, I can understand why they'd need an outlet for their emotions as violent as the one they've chosen. It doesn't, however, make them all that appealing as lead characters. Spending a few minutes with these guys is like watching an eighteen-wheeler and a locomotive collide headfirst at top speed, then throw it into reverse and get ready to do it again. The trainwreck aspect is fascinating, but I'm not especially involved as anything more than a startled (and smugly entertained) bystander.

Trevor Hairsine's artwork has a gritty, minimal but realistic Hitch-meets-Maleev slant to it. It fits right in with both the grungy, slutty atmosphere of the music scene and the harsh, lethal world of agents and assassins. Occasionally, the artist's characters can come off as too ambiguous (I didn't figure out that two members of the team were women until the middle of the issue) but he can play that off as a clever snipe at the constantly androgynous nature of the music industry, so in this instance I guess I can let it slide.

There's more than a passing similarity to Millar and Hitch's work on The Ultimates in Killapalooza, and the goes beyond the tone and style of Hairsine's artwork. Beechen's pull-no-punches storytelling is also clearly influenced by Millar's hard line approach, and the team even has its own miniature Nick Fury to round them up and point them in the right direction when things get a bit too rowdy. I wouldn't go so far as to call it an homage, but it's damn close. I guess as inspirations go, they could have chosen a lot worse.

I can't shake the feeling that I really shouldn't have liked this as much as I did. It reeks of stream of consciousness writing, full of the kind of puns and barbs that you can't help but snicker at, no matter how terrible. It's ballsy, which accounts for about 95% of its charm, and at least as far as debut issues go, that's good enough for me. Beechen and Hairsine have left enough doorways open to take this series in any number of directions, and if nothing else they've used its premiere to announce that nothing is truly out of bounds. This is not the best book I've ever recommended you buy, and it's certainly not for everyone, but it is worth a closer look just to be sure.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 8.5

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