Sunday, 22 December 2013

Buzzkill Review (Donny Cates, Geoff Shaw)


As a teenager, Francis discovers that he gets superpowers when he uses drugs and alcohol. Later, having been a superhero for many years, Francis is now a drug addict and alcoholic, and he no longer wants to be a superhero as the booze and drugs have ruined his regular life, isolating him from his friends and family. The problem with getting sober is that he’s now de-powered and vulnerable for the first time ever - and all of the supervillains he’s put away over the years want their revenge…


Buzzkill amazingly manages to find an unexplored angle to the superhero story - the problem is that it coasts on it for the entirety of its four issue run. It’s an original approach to discussing the seriousness of abusing drugs and alcohol, and the effects of addiction, it’s just that if you’ve read any stories about people who become drug addicts/alcoholics, many aspects of the comic will be familiar to you. Francis goes to AA meetings, he goes through the 12 steps, he gets a kooky sponsor, he tries to change his life, he tries to get his girlfriend back - it’s all stuff that’s been done a million times before. That it’s done by a guy who’s a former superhero is the only interesting part of this, unfortunately it doesn’t add anything to it.  


The premise of Francis getting superpowers from substances does seem fresh and exciting initially (though you might think Hancock or Asterix did something similar), but Francis’ superhero identity is never really explored all that much. He’s kind of like Superman in that he has super-strength, invulnerability, flight etc., and we do get scenes with Francis becoming the superhero to defend himself at certain points in the story, but his superhero self isn’t very compelling to read. Like the hippy Doctor Strange character - Doctor Blaqk - he’s a derivative creation but the writer Donny Cates doesn’t have much to say about him, other than it’s dangerous having a god-like being who’s wasted flying about the place. I know Francis’ superhero side isn’t the point and that Francis’ real self is important, it’s just Francis’ ordinary self is doing the aforementioned cliched things all addicts do in recovery, making for a rather dull story.


Without giving too much away, the conclusion is the cliched good vs bad fight though it is an interesting spin on another overused narrative trope. I wasn’t entirely sure how it was going to end but the execution felt sloppy with certain scenes in the final issue remaining either deliberately or mistakenly difficult to understand, despite multiple readings. I was sure about Francis’ fate though - the title is a giveaway - and I applaud the creative team’s choice to not provide the easy out, especially as this book has (at least as much as you can in a superhero comic) dealt with the reality of addiction.

Cates and co. obviously put a lot of effort into their book with the dozens of superheroes and villains included - that you’ll never remember - each given their own name and look, and Geoff Shaw’s art is really great (to give you an idea, it’s similar to Sean Gordon Murphy’s). Buzzkill is a fine debut book that shows the team’s potential for future comics, and kudos to Dark Horse for putting out this original concept comic, but it definitely has its flaws. Still, it’s certainly worth a look for superhero fans wanting to read a different take on the genre. 

Buzzkill

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