The Ludacrats #1
“I. The Fine and Ludicrous Institution of Matrimony. Also. Murder.”
Writers: Kieron Gillen & Jim Rossignol
Artist: Jeff Stokely
Colors: Tamra Bonvillain
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Editor: Chrissy Williams
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99 US
After I began to draft this review, providing an advance look at this new title from Image Comics, Diamond Comic Distributors announced it was halting shipments of new comics to stores following this week. That means it’ll be well beyond April 1 before many will get a chance to see it (a shame, as April Fool’s Day would have been perfect timing for this title’s release). Though it may be some time before comics enthusiasts can get their hands on this book, they’d do well to remember the title. This stands out as incredibly unique, an exuberant belch of creativity and a celebration of taboos and poor taste, all dressed up for a murderous prom.
On an impossible world defined by its extremes, the wedding of the season is about to take place, bringing together Elaina Triptych and a feeble, snivelling nobleman whose only value lies in his property. Really, it’s just a power play used as an excuse to party. But when enforcers from the state burst in to arrest all for the high crime of being boring, Baron Otto Von Hades, Professor Hades Zero-K, Grattinia Gravelstein and other Ludacrats are having none of it, and all Hell breaks loose. And in the middle of it all, love — well, lust, really – blooms.
Jeff Stokely brings a delightful level of variety to the character designs here. Most are lithe and angular, with sharp edges reflecting the over-the-top qualities of these weird, wild figures. But when it comes to Baron Otto, Stokely adopts a different approach to design. He’s all curves, a collection of spheres that convey his bombastic and blowhard traits. There’s a clear and undeniable Japanese influence at play in the character designs, most apparent in the female characters’ big eyes and angular features.
Despite the violent nature of this farcical piece, Tamra Bonvillain’s colors are quite vibrant, even the inky and shadowy blacks and greys employed for certain characters. The colors reflect the boundless energy of the characters and concepts, and I was particularly taken with the Baron’s crimson “garb” in the opening scene. I also appreciated Clayton Cowles’ lettering. It’s an unconventional style of letterform for comics, but nevertheless crisp and clear. His lettering reminded me of the elongated forms from 2015’s Airboy, which was similarly bawdy and depraved in tone.
There’s nothing wholesome about The Ludacrats. Though playful and imaginative, it’s crude and rude and lewd. But at its heart is a concept that’s delightfully innocent. The philosophy Gillen and Rossignol espouse here is that being weird is good. In our house, my wife and I will sometimes tell our nine-year-old son, “You’re weird,” to which he replies, “Thanks!” In the world of the Ludacrats, boring, mundane qualities make for cardinal sins, capital crimes that call for the hum-drum cancer to be excised from these seemingly random elements that converge to form an oddball society.
While insane and profane, there’s something truly beautiful about this comic — and not just visually. This unrestrained imagination and formal depravity is more than merely entertaining and titillating; it’s mesmerizing. The dialogue and linework dance around the page, spinning the reader in a tango of the absurd. The Ludacrats doesn’t purport to be the next Watchmen, Maus, or Asterios Polyp (or whichever medium-defining or medium-changing oeuvre that’s to your liking), but it’s clever and unrelenting in its successful effort to entertain its audience. 8/10