There is no rock band on Earth more well-suited to comics than Kiss. A lot of that has to do with how perfectly the look and vibe of the band fits in with comic book aesthetics. The face-paint, the costumes, the weird theatrical fantasy-meets-horror-meets-sci-fi tone of the group. And, of course, they’ve been irrevocably intertwined with comics ever since they poured a vial of blood into an ink vat at Marvel and sold their first comic book issue on the back of the idea that fans were also buying some of the band’s blood with each copy. So, whenever they return to comics it feels like a homecoming, and Kiss #1, written by Amy Chu with art by Kewber Baal, is no exception. It’s also just as much goofy fun as a comic book series starring Kiss should be, with a premise that is intriguing and shows promise.
The series takes place 500 years in the future, centuries after a great war destroyed our society and ruined the planet’s surface, driving humanity underground. The subterranean city of Blackwell is formed around a repressive culture that appears to be strictly regimented. We meet four kids, led by twins Eran and Noa, who bristle against conforming to their society. Not quite believing the stories about the surface being uninhabitable, and in possession of an ancient and mysterious map, they begin a journey that uncovers dark and baffling secrets, including elements that refer to familiar faces for anyone at whom this book is aimed (shhhhhh, I mean Kiss fans, here).
Look, I’m no Kiss fan. I mean, like anyone else, I want to Rock and Roll all night and part of every day (I think that’s right), and harbour the belief I could sing “Beth” at least as well as Peter Kriss. But that’s about where my familiarity with the band ends, aside from nearly getting into a fistfight with four people made up as Gene Simmons on a Manhattan street on New Year’s Eve, 1996. But even with my limited knowledge of the band, the first issue came off as a lot of fun.
The post-apocalyptic setting may be a bit familiar, but it’s appropriately so given the era of the band’s greatest success. The 1970s were full of stories about human society limping along in weird communities following catastrophes, the result of either nuclear war or environmental disaster. Amy Chu’s Blackwell has a kinship with the worlds of movies like “THX 1138,” “A Boy and His Dog,” “Deathrace 2000,” “Soylent Green” or a host of others. Although each of those films and their premises were more than a little cheesy and unbelievable, there was nonetheless something that was captivating about them. Chu and Baal’s Kiss #1 embraces the tone and style of those kinds of stories while still updating the feel for contemporary audiences. The four main characters each get enough personality to become individuals in their on right, and the mystery they embark upon is set up just enough to intrigue without giving the game away. There’s a distinct lack of actual Kiss in the issue, but I think it’s more than okay to build up anticipation, and having the band be the subject of the mystery rather than the initial protagonists means that they get injected with an enigmatic quality.
Your mileage on this will, of course, vary. If you prefer your sci-fi to have none of the goofy throwback vibe that this book intentionally evokes, then you may find some of it a bit silly. But to me, that’s clearly intentional, clearly meant to remind the reader of the kinds of post-apocalyptic stories you used to see all the time, and to me the result was charmingly fun.
Baal’s artwork is really solid throughout. There’s some good murky atmosphere to the Blackwell sections, and the kids are all expressive and rendered with a lot of personality. The book doesn’t feel miles away from the horror comics that briefly flourished in the 1970s and Baal handles all the weird and goofy aspects of the adventure with real energy and pace.
All in all, I enjoyed Kiss #1 way more than I thought I would. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel in any way, but actually did mange to set up an interesting world and mystery that has a lot of potential to be as fun and odd and theatrical as Kiss deserves. It may not be the most original or inspired issue, but for fans of the band, or fans of old school over the top sci-fi, Kiss #1 delivers. 7.5/10
Kiss #1 will be released just in time for Halloween on October 19th.