Burnouts by Dennis Culver got off to an inconsistent start. While the first issue of the Image Comics release certainly had its moments, it had problems sustaining them. Culver did an excellent job of writing his cast, but the story of high school kids fighting off an alien invasion seemed to have little to chew on. The fact that the kids needed to be high and/or drunk to see the aliens succeeded in adding humor at first, before tiring as a premise quickly.
Then, an interesting trend developed over the last two issues. Culver’s strong writing was bolstered by an equally strong story. The plot still centered around the same premise, but it no longer relied on it exclusively. Culver seemed to find a groove and began writing deeper characters in darker stories. Has the story found its voice, or were the last two issues an aberration?
Burnouts #5 picks up after last issue’s big reveal, and Culver’s writing is great. The entire issue is a fast paced cat-and-mouse sequence that takes place in a short amount of time. Culver pens the story with a sense of urgency that keeps readers glued to the page. Since the story takes place in a short span, every word and action is incredibly important to the overall plot. The issue is a fast and easy read.
Though the the fifth issue is short time wise, it is still filled with plenty of action. The opening pages see a fight that has been foreshadowed since the first issue of the book. It’s a quick and dirty scene that will remind many of real life fights. This is not a superhero book filled with pages-long battles of epic scale. This is high school kids fighting in a bathroom. In a book filled with alien possession, these moments of realism are a welcome addition.
GEOFFO’s art works very well in this issue. Much like the story has progressed, GEOFFO’s work has also evolved. It still has a comic strip feel to it, but it is more grounded than earlier issues. Characters are less cartoony and more realistic while the aliens still pop off the page. Possessed humans have a much more sinister look, which adds an unexpected horror element to Burnouts. When the series began, the story almost seemed silly with very low stakes. The story and art make it very clear that everyone is in very real danger.
GEOFFO also adds an entirely new wrinkle in Burnouts #5: This issue is by far the most violent one in the short run of the series. The entire book is a tension-filled one that is about hunting down a former friend. The closing pages of the book are shockingly violent. The climactic battle will be a head-turner for many reasons. Panels and characters are filled with blood and just when it seems like everything has gotten a little better, the issue ends in a surprisingly violent manner.
The ending of Burnouts #5 will probably be polarizing to many readers. On one hand, it brings something new to the story. The invasion becomes very serious almost instantaneously while adding a layer of dread. On the other hand, the silliness of the story is part of its charm. Burnouts had a fun quality to it that was not weighed down by the fate of the world. One thing’s for sure — it will be interesting to see where the story goes from here.