It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen or read a comic by Paul Cornell, who’s written for Demon Knights and Doctor Who in the past. So the chance to read a brand new comic from him, even if it is a mini-series, is rather exciting for me. Let’s see what he has in store for us. Is it good?
This Damned Band #1 (Dark Horse Comics)
It’s the 70’s and this band called MotherFather, with a reputation for worshipping the Devil and being involved with “black magic”, are having a documentary being filmed about them. That’s pretty much it until the end when things get trippy.
This Damned Band #1 is a letdown. Story-wise, the comic is light as a feather. Nothing is really happening in the slightest outside of seeing the daily lives of these musicians until the end. It’s slow moving, engaging in many random cuts from person to person, and we don’t get so much of a hint of a story. The climax and ending of the comic is where things start picking up, but not so much in the best of ways for two reasons. First, the comic’s artwork gets incredibly trippy and it’s ultimately hard to figure out what is going on during the concert to some degree. Second and most importantly, Dark Horse decided to blow the big surprise and essentially the entire story of the first issue in its own solicit. The effect is lessened and you spend most of the comic waiting for this moment to happen. Even if you don’t know about the spoiler from the solicitation, the final shot of the book may mean nothing after coming off several pages of psychedelic artwork and you can’t really tell who that is supposed to be.
The writing is not particularly impressive either. Character-wise, there’s not a whole lot to these individuals other than being standard rock stars with personas and some of them being more jerks than others. There’s potential here for these individuals given the ending, but it’s hard to say this early on. The dialogue isn’t too bad and can get engaging at some points when the characters interact with one another. However, it often feels disjointed and inhuman with the way comic cuts from scene to scene or moment to moment (heck, there was one odd scene where a character had a conversation with a group of people, but he was the only one talking). The story structure ultimately feels weak due to those cuts and it can make you feel like you skipped a panel or two at times. One last point to mention is that some of the buzz from famous people was that this was a funny comic; one that would be fun and provide some laughs. Unfortunately, it’s not really that at all. Most of the time, the timing is off, the jokes feel awkward, and scenes that seem like they are supposed to be funny end up not being that at all. Frankly, if no one mentioned this comic was funny or supposed to be funny, I would have never pegged the comic as a comedy.
Last thing to note is artwork by Tony Parker, someone I’m not familiar with. His work here isn’t bad at all at first glance. He seems to draw the characters fairly well, he puts some good detail into characters and locations (like the emphasis on all the locks in a person’s hair for instance), and the inking and coloring provided are pretty nice as well. In some areas, the artwork almost gives a vibe of Travel Foreman’s style. However, the closer you look at the comic, you start to notice that Parker cuts some corners or misses a few of the smaller things when it came to drawing. For example, the first page of the band performing shows that a lot of the crowd waving their hands have missing fingers, or in a scene where a character is supposedly receiving a blowjob, the woman doing it looks more like she is licking his belly button and the guy still has his pants on and still zipped up.
Is It Good?
This Damned Band #1 is a comic that I really wanted to like, especially with a writer that I already really like. However, the quality of the writing, the almost nonexistent story (that was spoiled ahead of time by Dark Horse), and the flawed artwork hold this comic back way more than it should have. For people who are fans of music documentaries and were curious about this comic, just hold off until there are more issues out there. Everyone else, just walk away and check out some of Cornell’s other work, like Saucer Country.