Dennis Culver’s Burnouts tells a straightforward story: A small town has been invaded by aliens that can only be seen by a certain kids. The caveat is in order for these high schoolers to see the otherworldly visitors, they must be drunk and or stoned out of their minds. There is no deeper subtext or meaning. Burnouts is a silly comic that is all about having fun.
The debut issue of Burnouts was all about introducing the cast and setting up its premise. The second issue was a good if uneven story that was essentially one long scene. Burnouts #3 is the first issue of the series that fully embraces its silly premise. This is not a story that needs complex characters or drawn out tension, and this issue is all about high octane fun.
The third chapter of Burnouts starts where the previous issue left off. The burnouts are trapped in a field surrounded by possessed cows. This outrageous opening is just a harbinger of things to come as the entire issue is filled with wacky moments that set the perfect tone for the comic.Culver does an excellent job navigating a very fine line. It’s not hard for silly stories like this to lose their charm — throwing one outlandish moment after another at readers eventually wears thin, and what was once a comic’s biggest strength becomes its greatest weakness. The problem is once an audience has come to expect zany antics a more serious approach is antithetical to the tone and tends to confuse. (Think of movies that are usually criticized for not knowing what they want to be.) It’s a vicious circle. Eventually, silliness gets tiresome, but toning it down is not taken seriously.
Culver has managed to find the right amount of silly without overpowering the readers. Burnouts is a comic with little green men and rampaging cows and seems like it may be too much. Instead, Culver balances the over the top moments in the book with grounded characters. This is not a story where it is one over the top scene followed by another. The reader can take the time to catch their breath, which makes every bizarre moment more impactful.Where Culver’s writing truly excels is that he never allows Burnouts to take itself too seriously. Where other books will juxtapose extreme silliness with incredibly dour moments, Culver simply allows the burnouts to just be themselves. There are no startling revelations or tear jerking moments of self discovery. The burnouts are a bunch of teenagers who are in over their heads and are written that way.
Ironically, as Burnouts becomes more comfortable in its peculiar skin, GEOFFO’s art takes on a less comical and more menacing look. While the first two issues looked like a Saturday morning cartoon, the third issue looks more look midnight showing. Thankfully, it’s not an abrupt change that will confuse readers. It is much more subtle and is likely a result of GEOFFO having a better feel for comic’s tone. The art is a perfect fit, giving Burnouts the look of a B horror movie.
Burnouts #3is easily the best issue of the young series. Dennis Culver had already crafted interesting characters, but it now looks as if the story is starting to find itself also. The first two issues were fun, but also had a sense of “how far can this go?” The third issue is a looser story that is also more engaging. Burnouts is clearly most concerned with having fun, which is just the way it should be.