Bazooka Jules #1

Posted: Wednesday, May 9
By: Alan Donald
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Written and drawn by Neil Googe

Publisher: Com.X

Plot: Preludes and Nocturnes. Here's the origin tale for Com.X's flagship superheroine.

This'll mean nothing to those outside the UK, or even those who weren't at Comics 2000, but...FINALLY! I was beginning to worry that Com.X had given up, but no...the boys have delivered the goods.

This is a company set up and founded by an ad agency. The lads had done well out of advertising and decided they could afford to pursue their own dreams...comics creation! So is this just vanity comics, self-published pap done to satisfy the ego of its rich creators? Well, yes...and no.

Primarily this is a vanity publication - the owners wanted to publish comics, so they did. But this isn't your usual cheap black-and-white crap, that you'd normally see, and the story, despite its faults, has been well editted to avoid the usual fanboyisms that this sort of thing would usually have.

Com.X was set up to initially produce an alternative to 2000AD in the British newsagents. The American format and limited story arcs were intended to first conquer the UK before moving on to take the States. Obviously Diamond have offered a good deal to the lads and they've decided to do the world in one go. One thing I am disappointed with is that the cover only features a dollar price, even Cerebus manages to print a UK price on it...

Scene set, on with the review. Twenty-two page, full colour, glossy pagesm on good paper stock, with a wrap-around cover, no ads, for $2.99 - not bad. But that translates at between 2 and 2.90 in the UK, so it isn't really that competitive against 2000AD at 1.40 a shot.

Visually the cover is stunning, it will really stand out against the dark covers that many comics feature, BUT to call this T&A is the understatement of the century. The art throughout is not just functional or just adequate as so many comics nowadays are...instead, it's fantastic - it's always clear and bright. The artist has a real feel for the characters, and is a great artist. There's never a problem with recognising people; background occasionally fade out, but this is common in many comics, and it wasn't that long ago tht Batman would always fight against a purple or yellow backdrop (it was even still happening post-Knightfall).

Subtle T&A continues throughout (until superceded by blatant T&A!), but there's eye-candy for the ladies too. Googe handle action, drama and normal day-to-day scenes with equal flair. The panelisation and visual concept for the majority of this book is quite pretentious but I believe that Googe has manged to pull off some great visual storytelling tricks with disappearing up his own arse.

I've been trying to put my finger on what this reminds me of - superficially, Tank Girl comes to mind, and I'm sure this will appeal to fans of Hewlett's character. The visual style is occasionally reminiscent of manga, but more often it invokes feelings of Crisis and Revolver, the "adult" companions to 2000AD. This very clear, crisp, unchallenging yet evocative, and dramatic style has appeared before, and it screams of Britishness in the best possible way.

Um, but here's the rub. Jules' backgrounds do appear to resemble Britain more than America. This led to confusion when the two main characters met, as I thought they were twelve hours apart (one in the UK, one in the US), but heh!

Another British thing is Jules herself. Sexy, pierced and decked out in a school uniform, she's sixteen years the UK, this means she's fair game, the hunt is on, she's up for it, no longer "jail bait" some US states it means statutory rape. It's a small point, as Buffy and other heroines were portrayed as sex objects from the age of sixteen onwards, and one gets the feeling that while, on the whole, Jules is still a little girl, Googe's willingness to juxtapose this into her being a raw, in-your-face, sex kitten at the end AND a shower scene, is a particularly British concept, that may come over as too near to the knuckle elsewhere (no sex till drinking till 21...but you can die for your country from 16...and drive from 15...and as for gun laws...all this is almost alien to the British culture, and you do feel that the converse might sit a little uncomfortably with an American audience).

Story-wise this isn't exactly taxing stuff. Put simply we've got a story with multi age-level and cross gender appeal. Action adventure, combined with T&A and good old fashioned "high jinx" - fans of Gen 13 and (as I said before) Tank Girl should love this. The strong female lead and knowingly tongue-in-cheek humour should interest female readers, and whilst it isn't exactly Strangers In Paradise, fans of Terry Moore's work out for pure and simple fun should also like this.

I suppose it should be acknowledged that this is likely to be HATED by many. Whilst nobody can deny the brilliance of the artistic style, the T&A, the humour, and the in-your-face rapid-fire action will annoy more than a few. Lucky for them that Com.X will be producing many titles in many different styles. Crossgen this company ain't. No central themes, no attempts to produce an interlinked universe...instead Com.X will feature a number of limited run comics, so keep an eye out for them...

Back to the story? Oh, okay. We have two tales here that intersect: first up is a school girl, going to school (as they do); the second one is about a thief, stealing (again, as they do). We're in a world of covert technological agencies and self-healing suits and motorbikes. Fans of Pratchett and Gaiman's collaboration, Good Omens, may recognise a portion of Bazooka Jules' origin, particularly if I say "dog". A thief pawns stolen technology to a school girl without her knowing, it activates and listens to her descrive what a superhero should be like; it injects her and we find out after a South Park-esque moment that she now has superpowers.

I'm a big fan of gritty books, but I still love the funnybooks, and I;m going to really enjoy this series in a very self-conscious way...but nuts to you, who are you to judge me?

This is good, old fashioned, fun, escapism, and I really hope that Com.X does well, because its vision promises a great future for the UK comics biz, and as a company I feel they will have more to offer than CrossGen. Give them time, and nice wide variety of titles, and we may have our new Dark Horse/Image!

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