Pretty Violent #1 // Review
Gamma Rey is a young superhero, just starting out. She has a lot to learn. Things get pretty ugly for her in her first issue as Writer/Artist Derek Hunter, and co-writer Jason Young present the first issue of Pretty Violent. The title is only half right. The gooey rubbery artwork springs and boings through a 30-ish page debut that is comically gruesome and playfully vulgar. It’s a weird fever dream of a superhero parody with a bloody, little emotional heart that actually seems to be saying something about the nature of persistence in the face of adversity.
Gamma Rey looks to aid her city. She’s been powerful and really strong ever since she was a...younger girl. She’s altruistic and optimistic until the world turns out to be much more complicated than it appears. A simple act o0f saving people from a monster goes horribly, horribly wrong. The crowd gathering around to see her in action has turned against her. And her fellow heroes are all trying to get rid of her. It’s not a very promising first issue for the young hero as things go from bad to worse in a series of grizzly, surreally cartoonish encounters.
Hunter and Young play with a madcap nightmare of a superhero spoof. Gamma Rey isn’t allowed a whole lot of depth as she’s shot through the cannon of good intentions gone bad. As someone of noble intentions gone wrong, she’s a very exceedingly relatable character. The world that she’s a part of is so totally twisted and surreal, that any sense of meaning in the story gets lost in the rubbery goo of the horrific slapstick of the visuals. There IS a very strong heart to what Hunter and Young are doing here, but it hardly seems necessary in the pleasantly psychotic parade of action.
Hunter’s art delivers the action to the page beautifully, but it isn’t exactly pretty. The slimy, slick bounce of the action feels like Basil Wolverton-by-way-of Ren and Stimpy’s John Kricfalusi. The depth and detail that Wolverton etched into his monstrosities is lost to the cell animated style of a gruesome, little adventure. It’s deeply kinetic stuff. Blood splashes about. Bones and internal organs whimsically fly around the page. It’s kind of difficult to tell precisely what it is that’s going on in the action. But there certainly seems to be a hell of a lot of it going on.
The deeper emotionality of Gamma Rey and her supporting cast may assert itself more as the series progresses. The emotional center of the comic book is so overpowered by the visual style. The insane pacing of the story makes it really difficult to pay attention to what it is that’s actually going on. The real challenge with the art in this kind of story is to keep it from overpowering the central plot. It’s a tricky balance to strike. Dave Cooper’s long-forgotten indie comic Puke and Explode was a perfect example of this style of art and action. In the service of something that had a very palpable heart and emotionality to it. If Hunter and Young can manage some greater balance, Pretty Violent could really turn into something great.