Gonzo Cosmic is a challenge. It is a challenge to what can be achieved by independently created and released comics in terms of production quality. It is a challenge to expectations, with an uncompromisingly multifaceted nature delivered Trojan horse fashion in a pulpy, science fiction romp shell. It is a challenge to standard graphic fiction structure, breaking with orthodoxy by presenting readers with ambitiously executed twists and turns that will lead to them asking questions of what it is they have already witnessed, forcing required but rewarding rereads. Essentially, this is a challenge in all the best possible uses of the word.
Artist and writer Garry Mac, colourist Jim Devlin, letterer Colin Bell and cover artist Kev Harper have conjured something unique and beautiful. While unashamedly ambitious, Gonzo Cosmic is never less than compelling page-to-page, and in all the ways the best comics should be. It is both bundles of fun, much of which comes from a sense of nostalgia generated in the bold nature of the storytelling, and riotously inventive.
Opening cold in a strange situation very fitting of the book’s title which is left relatively unexplained (at least initially), the action then snaps to the launching of the world’s first faster-than-light craft, the Formidable, brainchild of billionaire super-scientist genius Andel Novak. Things go awry with the unexpected arrival of his nemesis Ira Tappan, a fellow space adventurer set on seemingly nefarious ends, and this loose cannon throws the mission into unexpectedly bizarre waters. Needless to say; experimental spacecraft carrying unwanted bad guys are interesting places indeed…
From that point on the story needs, nay demands, to be experienced first-hand, and unpacked over-and-over to eke out all the different messages present. The nature of choice and the potential of human experience seem to be at the core of this first issue, “seem” because, even after several reads, there is much yet to be uncovered here, as once the reader takes the effort to dip their toe into the thematic waters they find a deep pool to swim in.
Mac’s line work is a gorgeous, sculpting everything from smooth-edged, high-end future technology, to colossal celestial beasts comprised of light and fire. These are brought to spectacular life by Devlin, whose dazzling colours give the book a pristine finish. His work includes swirling, kaleidoscopic colours that burst forth from the very first page and, in concert with the inks, constructs images that linger long in the mind, while Bell’s letters add a clarity and sense of character to several important figures, picking out and distinguishing them in an environment where this is both necessary and informative to the story.
Special mention should also be made for Harper’s cover which presents a gleeful and cheeky cartoon of Novak in traditional “science hero” pose on a twisting and almost hypnotic background. This acts as a marvellous visual primer for the glorious bait-and-switch of perception versus reality and style leading to substance within, adding to the next-level smarts on display here.
Wrapped in a stunning graphic aesthetic, Gonzo Cosmic is, on the surface at least, a compelling science fiction adventure narrative but it is never less than complex and filled to the brim with hints at bold and original ideas, many of which make a gripping case for following this journey beyond the first issue. I rarely place my personal opinion in as direct manner as this in reviews, but Gonzo Cosmic is easily one of the most accomplished small press books I’ve seen, and I strongly urge you to experience it yourselves.
Find a preview of Gonzo Cosmic issue one and buy copies here