This first issue of Punk Mambo (out April 24th) comes out of the gate swinging its fists. Much of the book plays out like a magic-fueled 007 cold open, with Punk Mambo on a mission to save some kids who have been kidnapped by inbred cannibal monsters. Within this self-contained adventure, Mambo’s magical sidekick is kidnapped by a mysterious entity, setting in motion the real meat of the story. Now Mambo is on the hunt for whatever magical force is strong enough to break through one of her spells.
Having not read any other comics featuring Punk Mambo, I was genuinely pleased to find that I didn’t feel left out of the loop when this story began. There are a few references to the wider magical lore in the Valiant universe, but most of the exposition of the issue comes from Punk’s posturing during battle. This has the effect of catching the reader up on her whole deal, while also acting as a fun character trait.
As fun as the title character and Cullen Bunn’s script is, the real star of this issue is Adam Gorham’s artwork. The page layouts are exquisitely planned, with multiple action beats being broken up into smaller panels, like in the image above. This has the effect of showing the reader a clear look at what’s happening, with plenty of room for text explanations and one-liners to go along with the badass battle.
This brings me back around to the James Bond comparison. Aside from the fact that they’re both tough Brits, the way this opening is structured is pretty brilliant. All of the exposition happens during moments of action or some form of forward momentum. There doesn’t seem to be a single wasted page here.
While the end of the issue feels a little abrupt, it sets up the next issue pretty cleanly. The concept of magic controlling its summoner as much as (if not more than) the user controls it is a concept seen pretty often in fiction. However, the bullheaded nature of the title character is a hint to readers that we may be seeing a different take on these ideas.
Punk Mambo’s personality stands in a nice contrast to other well-known magical comic book characters. Take John Constantine, for example (well, the Vertigo version of him, at least). Whereas John is always acutely aware of how screwed he is and how he’s a smaller piece in the Grand Design than he’d like to be, there’s a very self-assured quality to Punk that makes her instantly likable. It may prove to be a front, but this issue gives a sense that she truly believes she’s got it all figured out, which is why it’s so off-putting to her when she is bested, for once.
That sureness of being is a breath of fresh air. She wouldn’t be very “punk” if she were cool as a cucumber, so the angst is still there, as is that classic rebellious nature that comes with youth (eternal youth, in this case), but she carries herself with the air of the seasoned veteran that she is. Punk’s very character is a fascinating clash of sensibilities, which should make her continuing adventures very interesting to read.
The only bummer involved in getting to read an advance review for a book this fun is that, with this first issue not dropping till April, I have to wait even longer to read more Punk Mambo! Do yourselves a favor and grab this book when it hits the shelves. It’s a wild time.