Bang! Tango appealed to me as soon as I saw the preview on the Image website. With its jaw-dropping art and intriguing premise I was expecting to be blown away by this trade paperback. Does it live up to these lofty expectations? Is it good?
Bang! Tango (Image Comics)
Bang! Tango is the tragic story of Vincente Ponticello, and the violence and sin that surrounds him. Vinnie was once part of the mob, until an accident left his boss’s brother dead and he was forced to run from New York. Now, after escaping to San Fransisco and making a life out of ballroom dancing, Vinnie is pulled back into his past with one more job assigned to him by someone he’d rather forget. The brutality and chaos that fills these pages is nothing short of mesmerizing, and by the time you read the last page you will be truly awed. This is a graphic novel for the ages.
There are three ongoing themes, or pillars rather, that are present throughout Bang! Tango. These pillars are dancing, sex, and truth, and each one of them is handled brilliantly.
Dancing is how the story starts and how it ends. Dancing is what occupies the main character Vinnie, and it is something he is good at. However, it’s not an escape for him as the arts tend to be to a character with a troubled past. No, Vinnie doesn’t see dancing as something that consumes him, but rather something that is so different from what he used to do. Dancing stands for everything that is the polar opposite of being a hitman. Yet, even though Vinnie’s dancing is such a drastic change from his old profession, the tango in particular is a metaphor for him as a person. Just like the tango, Vinnie is sexual, deliberate and above all passionate. He can be angry, he can be fiercely loving and his strong emotions make him extremely unpredictable. The tango is a dance that can display anger or love much like Vinnie, and we’ll see Vinnie make the switch between those feelings many times before the story is over.
The second pillar is sex. Many of the characters in Bang! Tango are defined by sex. One character, Autumn, desperately wants a gender reassignment so that she can become the same woman on the outside that she is on the inside. For her, her sex means everything about her and for many characters in the book that is all they can see about her. Autumn is hated and discriminated against for having the parts she has, which drives most of her conflict. The fact that she has this difference makes her a truly unique character. She is strong, conniving but also sexual. She has her own agenda but also what she perceives as her own weakness. Her relationship with sex is really what makes her story so gripping.
Then there’s Vinnie, who it seems can’t keep his hands off of anyone. He is helplessly sexual and also, it appears, quite confused about what he wants. His insatiable sexual appetite and promiscuity doesn’t make him any more likable (in fact, it’s really appalling at times) but they do make him a more complicated character. If Vinnie were just a cold killer with no feelings he’d be rather dull, instead he’s an extremely troubled man who still has lust and passion and feeling, even if it manifests in him being unfaithful to his love interest and generally selfish. He is a dangerous man made even more dangerous by his wild carnal desires.
Lastly there’s truth. I know that other readers may argue that violence is one of the main themes of this comic, but I think that violence is just an effect of the other two pillars. I think that truth plays a larger part in this comic. Vinnie is not honest, and he leaves his girlfriend in the dark about his past for most of the comic. He’s so dishonest, he’s not even true to himself. This leads to further chaos as Vinnie isn’t totally able to see what would be in the best interest for him, so he becomes brash and careless.
These pillars are what give the comic resonance and deliver a punch. The comic is also stylistically incredible, from the gritty dialogue to the riveting and gory fights. Everything about this comic, from its brilliant characters to the incorporation of music through the lettering makes it a worthwhile and exciting read. And this review would certainly not be doing Bang! Tango justice if I did not mention the absolutely breathtaking artwork. Adrian Sibar paints a comic that is unlike anything I have ever seen in my life. It is an experience of washy emotion and flashy violence. The rough lines make the comic feel dark and gritty; they serve to amp up the intensity already created by the story. The coloring is irregular, some panels are black and white some are awash with blue, or pink or orange. It’s so emotional and ethereal in a way that we can both feel the brutality of Vinnie’s struggle as well as the passion of his relationships. The art in Bang! Tango is truly splendid.
Is It Good?
Bang! Tango is a riveting crime noir unlike anything I’ve ever read. The comic to beat in 2015 so far.