Marijuana is a culture in and of itself. There are shirts, music, books, and movies devoted to the drug. Talking to a pothead is a lesson in this underground culture with names like Half Baked and Bob Marley constantly referenced. (This usually includes a long lecture on why it should be legalized.) Burnouts from Image Comics sounds like it’s going to be just another marijuana story, but does things a little differently.
Burnouts is almost a throwback. Aliens have come to Earth and the only people who can see them are a group of high school kids. The caveat? They have to be completely wasted to see them. In a world filled with heavy messages, it’s a refreshing to read a comic that is all about action-packed fun.
Writer Dennis Culver creates a world that all readers can relate to. Andy is a high school student who is doing well in classes but wants to hang out with the cool kids. Unfortunately, everyone (including the police) knows these kids for all the wrong reasons. This is an issue many of us dealt with in high school. There always seemed to be a group that was a little cooler than the people you hung out with. However, it was never as simple as “they have more fun” and friends and family would be quick to tell you why being popular was not the most important thing in the world. If the reader wasn’t Andy, then they definitely knew someone like him.
Culver also does an excellent job of not sticking to familiar standards. When it comes to writing stoner characters, it seems everyone follows the same template whether they are heroes or villains. Burnouts does not contain the “far out, man” potheads that would be expected. Instead, they hint at an emotional depth that makes them seem like just a bunch of average kids.
GEOFFO’s art style is perfect for the comic book. Burnouts is filled with numerous panels and the drawings have heavy lines. It’s reminiscent of a Sunday comic strip and adds to the levity of the story. GEOFFO seems to place a premium on telling a story over building the characters, however. Few of the scenes show much character detail while all the action scenes are high energy and filled with movement.The use of panels is well done for the most part. During the issue’s climatic battle, Burnouts is cinematic in both look and feel. The few splash pages in the book are used appropriately to heighten the situation. That being said, there is an odd moment where five panels are squeezed across the center of one page. It seems that the decision was made to add to the chaos of the moment, but it ends up being distracting.
After one issue, the only character who has been given any time to develop is Andy. Even then, he is your basic “nerdy kid who longs to be cool.” There is nothing more to him. Meanwhile, the burnouts themselves act more like typical heroes than stoners, but their time in the comic was limited.
Burnouts is an interesting first issue. Dennis Culver does a good job of making sure things are not too typical, but ultimately readers’ enjoyment will depend on how much they want to read about kids who are constantly drunk and/or stoned.
Final Order Cutoff for Burnouts is August 27th.