Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Imagine if there were superheroes and villains—but rated R! However, this one’s created by a designer from Adventure Time and it’s about a supervillain, Gamma Rae, trying and failing to be a hero. Like many comics and even movies, while the concept is strong, the execution is weak. In this case, offensive, but not for the reasons you might think.
A good deal of pathos and insight could have been gleaned from the initial concept. Exploring a villain’s desire to help people, for selfish or genuinely altruistic reasons, is just waiting to be delved into. While there have certainly been comics like that before (AHEM, Incorruptable), it’s not what you do, it’s how you do it.
Unfortunately, Pretty Violent does not do it in a clever, fun, or even funny way. It’s pretty bad. It’s very, very bad. This comic has no pretentions or ambition and instead goes for gore gag after gore gag. We don’t see why the titular anti-hero wanted to save people in the first place. It’s just a constant stream of hulkish figures bursting people’s heads in. It’s a parody of itself, but it’s horribly un-self-aware. In terms of pacing, this is a nightmare.
Usually you start with the protagonist’s life to show their normal routine before an inciting incident—something that sets the main character off on a journey, either physically or mentally. That basic story structure…is not here. We open with carnage—we continue with carnage. And don’t give me any of that: “rules were meant to be broken” jazz—this comic is so juvenile, it doesn’t deserve that lofty rule-breaking hope.
How are we supposed to be invested in a character that continually fails at “doing good” when their only discernible motive is personal glory? And no, don’t give me any “it’s a character study” business. To be fair, there is some crazy sci-fi twistiness at the very end, but it’s not original or clever and predictably devolves into rupturing heads.
Speaking of characters, none of the many heroes and villains presented here are particularly distinct from each other. They’re just here to be a parade of meat-sacks to be broken open so Derek Hunt can exorcise his aggression after a long day animating a children’s show that’s actually well written.
Exposition and blunt dialogue is a difficult subject in comics. You can go for realism like in a movie script, or you can write blunter, more exposition-heavy fare. In the comics medium, both have pros and cons since space is an important factor. You need to be economical in the information and pacing. All that to say Pretty Violent’s dialogue goes for the blunt expositional approach, which isn’t inherently bad, but because it feels like it was written by a 13 year-old, it’s cringe-worthy and on the level of a Cartoon Network show for tweens or younger. It’s insulting.
Some people will find enjoyment from the dialogue because it’s foul-mouthed; a fact that the book begs you to notice even on the front cover: Pretty Violent…with Lots of Swears. I can appreciate the fun of a bawdy, raunchy comedy, but only when it’s—what’s that word—funny. Pretty Violent thinks its hilarious in the same vein as the Deadpool movies because here a Hit Girl ripoff said, “F*ck you, you ungrateful motherf*ckers.” Hi-larious.
Oftentimes I compliment cartoony art for the versatility and uniqueness a looser style can bring. That will not be happening today. Hunt shuns putting much work into backgrounds and places all his effort into a stream of splash pages and panels where organs from monsters and men spill out. The style is fairly generic and looks like any number of average CN shows but without any quirky, endearing design work on something like, say, Adventure Time. Add a bland color palette and no amount of screaming, contorted faces that all look the same can save this.
The author’s note at the end brags about how many fellow pros love the book and how this book is for “weirdos that don’t fit in.” That’s exactly what I’d expect from a book this heinous. This is a valueless comic. The art, story, characters, dialogue, and any other elements are either unimpressive or incompetent. I’m not morally offended. That would be letting this book win. I’m offended it wants to take any money for its no-bar worth.