Although there will be a majority of comic book fans that will be reading the likes of Marvel and DC to what superhero antics are going on, it’s always nice to seek out of original works that have nothing to do with people wearing capes and spandex. That’s why a lot of the best comics currently being published are from Image, such as the always terrific Saga. However, every publisher gets to have their missteps, and sadly Mayday falls into that category.
Writer: Alex de Campi
Artist: Blond, Tony Parker
Publisher: Image Comics
With the Cold War ongoing in 1971, the CIA is handed the espionage coup of the decade when a KGB general defects with a list of all Soviet intelligence assets in Asia, including spies within the US Army in Vietnam. While Jack Hudson is assigned to get the defector and his microfilm from Hong Kong to California, Codename: Felix is sent to kill that same defector and get the microfilm back to the USSR by any means possible.
I was only aware of who Alex de Campi was and her reputation before reading Mayday, so this was my introduction to her comic book work, and it did not leave a good first impression. With its early seventies setting, de Campi is evoking the politics and pop culture as the backdrop of this unlikely road trip across America. Although she clearly has done her research by using the music of its day with lyrics said throughout the numerous panels and concluding each issue with a historical quote commenting on America during that chaotic time, a lot of them seem tacked on just to evoke that period, but that doesn’t it adds any importance or hipness to this frankly lackluster narrative of espionage.
The word that is often thrown out about this comic is “Grindhouse” as its adult content is more in the lines of exploitation cinema, mixing sex, violence and even racism; thus there was a reason why we lost interest in those movies. Through these issues is this leeriness that is unpleasant to read through, especially when our “anti-hero” Felix is just killing anyone, even if that person poses no threat whatsoever.
As for the art by Tony Parker and Blond, it doesn’t fare any better, for the most part. Despite an impressive sequence in the first issue featuring a drug high with pages that blend psychedelic colors and panel contortion, there is an ugliness to some of the character designs as well as an inconsistency throughout the numerous bloody action sequences.
Mixing the 70s Cold War thriller with a Grindhouse aesthetic may seem a cool idea at first, but Alex de Campi executes that premise poorly with a tone that can’t quite decide whether to be serious or funny, while there’s very little to care about its primarily unsympathetic cast.