In ‘Now, Today, Tomorrow and Always’, the first issue of Gonzo Cosmic, the new on-going independent title from Unthank and the mind of Garry Mac, a post-scarcity culture meets mad science and space pulp adventures in a landscape of non-Euclidian geometry and postmodern-time structures. Somewhere, at some time, Andel Novak is staring through a curiously vaginal gap in time, only to see himself on stage introducing his new FTL ship, the Formidable. But behind the scenes, security agent (possibly working for a higher agency- it’s unclear) Amanda Lewis is working to stop Ira Tappan, mad scientist in disguise, from stealing the ship. She fails, but what ensues is more than just an offshoot of Tappan’s plan gone wrong. To say more would spoil it, but suffice to say that by the end of the first issue, time travel, spacescapes, higher forms of life and extra dimensions have all been explored. And this is just the first issue!
Judging the content of the story is a little difficult, in part because this is so clearly a concept which lends itself to an on-going; Mac obviously has a plan about what to reveal and when, so for now our understanding is somewhat clouded. Instead I’m going to focus on a few things he does completely right. For one, the characters are well-introduced, particularly Novak and Lewis (I sense that these two are to be roughly the main characters, albeit of a larger cast). Andel Novak himself is an interesting soul, and for reasons that aren’t clear until the end of the comic, seems to be acting quite bizarre… Here’s a hint- it has to do with the Freudian alien space stuff going on at the start. But what is striking about Novak’s character is that he is as convincing a depiction of genius as I have seen. He’s devilishly smart, he’s charismatic and decisive, and he’s quick to adapt. In short, he has the best attributes of the pulp heroes he is clearly meant (in part) in homage to.
Lewis also offers ample opportunity for exploration during the arc of the comic, as several questions remain about her allegiances, motivations, and relationship with Novak and the rest of the Formidable’s crew. She doesn’t figure too heavily in the plot of the comic once the running-and-gunning is out of the way, but she is introduced second in the exciting opening pages, with a heavy emphasis on her action, so presumably she will feature in important ways later on.
Another enticing aspect of the comic is how Mac has so many ideas, he can just throw them away in a panel or two. This populates the universe of the comic with cool stuff which can be talked about later, a plus for both creators and fans alike! My particular favourite is ‘the Folly Wall’, a by-product of Tappan’s failed attempt at space travel. We’re not told exactly what it is or the story behind how it came to be; all we know is that many people died in an incident which involved it, and that it is a disc of ‘rotting metal and flesh’. Yikes. This sort of quality is also true in the design of the comic, which is particularly imaginative, especially in the other-dimensional Oscillatum. The aliens here are truly mind-boggling, and are effectively realised not only through Mac’s design but also through the decision to give each one their own distinctive lettering and speech bubble style (props to Colin Bell for the work on lettering here).
The design, and the art style in general, is clearly influenced by ‘widescreen comics’ like The Authority by Warren Ellis, and the character art style of Frank Quitely (in particular All-Star Superman). Gonzo Cosmic also shares some thematic similarities with these books, in that it seems similarly interested in post-scarcity worlds, super-science, multi-dimensional shenanigans, and sociopolitical commentary. This similarity is by no means a claim that Gonzo Cosmic is derivative; far from it, the comparison shows Gonzo Cosmic in a favourable light, as one of a school of comics which deal with grand themes in a pulpy, interesting way. In one or two places in his first issue, Mac depicts characters a little off-model; this is often in panels that deviate significantly from a heads-on perspective, as is the norm with widescreen comics. To be honest, if I have to choose between having constantly on-model characters with boring framing, and off-model characters with interesting framing, I’ll choose the latter every time. What’s important is that the panel choice helps tell the story, and here, it’s also damned clever: it really is very cinematic, using cross-cuts of conversation, ‘jump cuts’ of action in static frames to depict change, and well-judged splash pages to really show off the scenery. The character design is very strong, so the off-model moments are never disorientating, and I suspect this is something which will clear up over time as Mac becomes more familiar with depicting the characters. It’s a fairly common teething problem as I see it, and with panel choice and design as strong as this, something which should definitely be overlooked.
Gonzo Cosmic accomplished a lot with its first issue, and certainly points the way toward an incredibly interesting run. So if you’re looking for a pulpy space adventure with cerebral undertones, pick up a copy here! If you’ve read the comic and agree, or want to know where to get hold of it, comment below or hit us up on Twitter @AP2HYC.