My particular journey in pulp began with swashbuckling stories of pirates, musketeers, pimpernels and men in iron masks. It evolved through the adventures of ape-men, barbarians, men of bronze and wasteland travelers. Somewhere along the line, I discovered crime.
God, I love crime stories. I devour them in all mediums and I particularly enjoy how crime can be blended with any other genre or dramatic tradition and it just all gets more complex and resonant. Today’s case of “you got your peanut butter in my chocolate” features a Jewish-Chinese subculture going back to the Russian Revolution that should have resonance for anyone from (or even just familiar with) an immigrant background. This is a generational drama about a man seeking his roots intermingled with a Scorsese-meets-John Woo crime-revenge story.
Now you get why fried kreplach comes with Chinese duck sauce at Jewish delicatessens, boychik? The Jews and the Chinese-food trope had to come from someplace; I’m just sayin, the cultures have connections. In the case of SEARCH FOR HU #1 from Aftershock Comics, they’re crime connections. Glorious.
Hot damn but that cover, though! I have to say, you want my attention, this is a fine way to grab it. A masterpiece of one image with tons of movement and dramatic tension. We read left to right, so we start “reading” the drama of the image instantly. A different, language-handling piece of the brain really reads the boring bullshit - title and creator’s names, snooze… ‘cause that IMAGE! The eye drops instantly to the exposed and vulnerable guy on the left - with his jacket off, the blood spatter and his pose in direct opposition to the others, whoa. Serious big fight underdog action. Then you process what he’s facing and your eye travels over and up and holy shit there’s a lotta dudes, and does that one have a freakin’ BATTLE MACE? Your eye comes back down (seriously, this is on purpose, the artist tells a whole story in this one image) to check in on the safety of character who your monkey brain is being told is ON YOUR SIDE FRIEND TRIBE because now we’re facing bad guys literally at his freakin‘ side. There’s even one dude swinging a claw hammer at my man’s unmentionables, so fuck these guys, seriously. It’s almost an afterthought when we notice that several of the opposing force have already fallen bloodied at our hero’s feet. We experience a thrill (this is a goddamn exciting cover!), a swell of pride (that’s our guy kickin’ ass!) and a giant adrenaline shot of TELL ME MORE. Damn, that’s a great cover.
Aftershock has seriously got some great editorial direction, because they once again put together a winning creative team from all lands and walks of life. That cover I was waxing poetic about was drawn by the same artist doing the interiors, a guy from Spain I’d never heard of called Rubine, only name given. Wow, this guy is the business. After that amazing cover, his style inside left me surprisingly cold at first, but after a first page that is just awkward in general, he starts unleashing these incredible faces! These faces are deceptively simple, mainly line work, not much for textures, but Rubine’s expressions are unique and compelling. The characters are distinct and the acting is fantastic, especially as the story has a lot of dialogue pages.
The story comes from writing team Steve Orlando and Jon Tsuei. I don’t know either of them other than Steve is a generally respected creator despite the old wisdom, y’know - never trust a guy whose last name is a city. Anyway, the comic has that previously mentioned awkward first page doing it no favors, but stick with it because that unevenness is not indicative of the entire book, and I am really looking forward to reading more.
We get compelling characters thrust into desperate situations, secret family history, a protagonist reluctantly returning to a life of brutality, a loyal friendship, generational obligations and a killer last-page cliffhanger. My friends, that’s fine Pulp. I recommend SEARCH FOR HU #1.
Plenty of Pulp, by Max Cage, for Wednesday Pull List