“Ballistic #1” Hearkens Back to Underground Comics

Ballistic #1 (w) Adam Egypt Mortimer  (a) Darick Robertson (c) Diego Rodriguez (l) Crank! Black Mask Studios, 33 pages.
“Ballistic #1”
(w) Adam Egypt Mortimer
(a) Darick Robertson
(c) Diego Rodriguez
(l) Crank!
Black Mask Studios, 33 pages.

A fascinating and somewhat horrifying concept in science fiction for me is the melding of animate and inanimate materials. This melding is beyond a simple hybridization or mutation as seen in say X-Men, no, this is about the actual symbiosis between materials. For example, imagine using the now considered classic sci-fi premise that the only way to get onto the internet was to physically plug yourself in with a wire, having ports on any spaces in your body. The world of  Ballistic walks in the footsteps of William Gibson but dabbles with David Cronenberg by introducing complicated ideas that man made synthesized evolution, or biomimicry (as listed in the annotations) will be about organic, living material moving from the metaphorical to literal, such as an air conditioning duct is not a hollow metal tube, it is an organic tube of living, breathing material, no different than your windpipe.

I spend time  talking a bit about biomimicry, as it is intriguing to me (and absolutely integral to the logic of this fabricated world) how Ballistic executes this concept so well in a comic and with a degree of expertise, highlighted with an annotated section at the end for readers curious to see the science behind the ideas/concepts. Recently I have seen the concept of literal transformations of organic systems in small snippets of Brandon Graham’s Prophet and Multiple Warheads, although Graham usually plays it for his love of both visual and verbal pun. Ballistic scribe Adam Egypt Mortimer has humor in the writing, however, his world building is a serious, seemingly dangerous place where the story of a low-level, lonely nobody aspires to be that big shot player/gangster. The humor comes in surprisingly witty and well-paced dialogue exchanges between characters, especially between our lead man Butch and his “gun,” itself a piece of “talky-tech” that has the ability to integrate with Butch’s nervous system when needed.

I have known of artist Darick Robertson by reputation but had not had the chance till only this past year to get into his work with a few issues of Happy, his co-created mini-series with Grant Morrison. While that experience was middle-of-the-road for me (I do like his consistent ability to make facial expressions fit the context of a scene), the artwork on display in Ballistic is most certainly worth the price of admission. While there are tangible things for the reader’s eyes to gravitate towards, it is the architecture of this world that Robertson should be commended on as it is exemplary fantasy work, from dragon winged automobiles to the biologically inspired cityscapes (this is best exemplified in a gorgeous two-page spread).

The credits page of Ballistic dedicates the work to Jean Giraud, aka Moebius, who passed away in the last year. Moebius created fantasy work that has influenced a generation of visual artists in various mediums, and there are some wonderful echoes of his work in this opening chapter. Ballistic wears fantasy and sci-fi homage openly, but what separates this work from others on the shelves is the influence is derived not from the mainstream, but rather from the unfiltered underground, a place where people are only limited by themselves, something that perhaps Moebius would agree with. This third release from Black Mask Studios, following strong showings with the anthology Occupy Comics and Matt Miner’s animal rights super-hero study Liberator, chalks up more momentum for a creator owned publishing house that makes me curious to see what is on the horizon.