Saturday, 25 July 2015

Ballistic Review (Adam Egypt Mortimer, Darick Robertson)

Repo City State is a living city where DNA and machines are fused together for some reason. Butch is an air conditioning repair guy with a talking gun which is also a drug addict. Yeah, it’s one of those books. “Look how quirky we are!” etc., “we’re being imaginative and different so we’re automatically great! Doesn’t matter that we can’t string together a coherent scene or create defined characters, this should be enough!”. Together they’re going to… take on a mob boss and… er… ?

I can’t stress this enough: Ballistic is utter rubbish. A major part of that is the godawful writing and incompetent storytelling from filmmaker Adam Egypt Mortimer. It’s so bad, I couldn’t even summarise what the hell is going on in it., not even vaguely. 

I picked it up because Grant Morrison called it his favourite comic of 2014 and because Darick Robertson’s a fantastic artist whose name is usually synonymous with good comics (Transmetropolitan, The Punisher, The Boys). But wow… Ballistic really underlines the importance of quality comics writers and the difference between them and amateurs like Adam Egypt Mortimer.

Mortimer simply doesn’t know how to tell a story. We’re introduced to Butch who’s unhappy with his life as an air conditioner repairman so he decides to make the massive leap to criminal by ripping off some gang leader – has this always been his dream? Why does he think he can get away with this? He’s one guy (and a talking gun) versus who knows how many other guys with vastly more experience in killing people!

It gets worse from there as Butch and Gun ping-pong from one arbitrary set-piece to another. He goes on a date with a girl, kisses her, and then her body is vaporized by something for some reason. (I’m sorry but this really happens) He’s holding her decapitated head but she’s still alive? Then her clone appears? But her head’s a robot?

Some kind of ninja assassin materialises (who is she, what does she want?) and attacks a corporate building for some reason. Gun overdoses somehow and then Butch loses his hand but regrows it with some magic glove. All the cars have bat wings because why not. The walls bleed. People eat people. Everyone’s got both sets of genitals and alien DNA. Then Butch declares he has to kill some guy. Why, asks Gun. Because… I have… to… answers Butch. He doesn’t know, the writer doesn’t know, the reader doesn’t know. What drivel.

I like Darick Robertson’s art but the character designs definitely feel recycled. The two main female leads are exact copies of Channon and Yelena from Transmetropolitan but with green and blue skin, while Butch is a pale copy of Butcher from The Boys. Otherwise, first rate stuff from Robertson as always. 

I think Mortimer was aiming for something between David Cronenberg’s eXistenZ and Keanu Reeves “classic” Johnny Mnemonic and instead ends up with complete horseshit on his hands (so, kinda close to Keanu’s movie). Instead of writing characters he just presents character profiles telling us their age, height, weight, etc. as well as what clothes they’re wearing. It’s a lazy and ineffective way of writing characters, a guaranteed way to make them unmemorable.

Pages don’t segue well at all. One page has no correlation with the last. In the last third of the book, panels seemingly have no connection to one another! There’s an extensive section at the back where Mortimer painstakingly explains the detail within each panel. Fine, I appreciate the effort. It’s just that when you put the panels together, they don’t mesh. It’s sequential art – you have to be able to read the panels in sequence and make sense of them. Here, it’s just page after page of unconnected panels which makes it such a headache to read, let alone understand!

If I were to do a detailed breakdown of exactly why this comic sucks, it’d have to look at every single page because each one is a mess and the review would run to almost as long as the book itself! But I don’t care enough to put that kind of effort into it, I feel like I’ve wasted enough time already having read and reviewed it thus far.

Even without the brief bio, it’s clear that Mortimer is a filmmaker and not a comics writer. This is what Transmetropolitan would look like if it were written by someone totally incompetent. I expect it’s also why, even though Darick Robertson drew the whole thing, no major comics publisher would touch this drek and they had to go to Black Mask, whoever they are!

I can see why Grant Morrison would like this but even at his most obtuse and self-indulgent (a toss-up between The Filth and The Invisibles), he wasn’t this bad and that’s because he understands the language of comics. I can’t say this is the worst comic of the year because I (tried to) read Miracleman Book 3 and didn’t finish; I did at least finish Ballistic. But this is a close second to the worst. Except for the art, absolutely atrocious comics from start to finish. 

Never heard of Ballistic? There’s a reason for that!


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