"It's ok, I been dead plenty of times before" - McBlack
After something of a hiatus Jason Franks' Whiteface McBlack is back in an all new original story. For those of us who grooved to the initial graphic novel featuring one of Australia's greatest anti-heroes, it's nice to see McBlack hasn't lost his penchant for answering all issues with extreme violence and one liners. But this time round even McBlack might be hard pressed to get a result.
Just like in Tron, yeah that movie, McBlack is sucked into a computer game to do battle with the forces of chaos. Naturally McBlack meets his electronic foes with as much firepower as he can muster, however there's something of a surprised waiting for our assassin of mayhem as he battles through the levels of the game world. This might not be the simple seek and destroy mission McBlack loves to focus on.
Surprisingly McBlack One Shot (MOS) arrived on my desk during a relevant debate we had for no apparent reason got heated about. I am of the opinion that comic book fans tend to also be computer games fans while Sal holds the firm believe that the two are not mutual bed fellows. Naturally, like most geek arguments, there is no right or wrong answer, but hey that doesn't stop us having firm opinions with no empirical data to back that opinion up. Well suck this down, McBlack is firmly entrenched in the electronic games world in his latest adventure, which lends support to my argument. Who after all is going to disagree with the white faced one? Which is sort of a convoluted way of pointing out that the action going down in MOS is straight from a sort of old platform game, you will be immersed in the game world as McBlack battles his way up the levels toward the final confrontation. Actually when you think about it, only Jason Franks would have tried to pull this concept off, and got away with the concept. And before you ask, no you don't have to be into computer gaming to get enjoyment from the comic, though there's certainly a retro feel to things for those of us brought up on the platform chaos of days gone by.
Plot wise the comic follows a linear path, platform game remember, with McBlack entering at level one, progressing through various trials and tribulations, before finally doing battle with the big boss at the end. How our master of weapons of mass destruction gets sucked into the game, promise of wealth via violence, and what happens after he exits provides the framing device necessary for the plot to have some sort of focus. So plenty of platform mayhem as things progress, with McBlack providing the sort of running commentary some gamers have a tendency to add as their own personal vocal track. Power ups, lives, rudimentary puzzle solving, being the juice adding to a simmering MOS stew that we simply know is going to burst into flames as McBlack tires of following directions.
There's a literary device called "author intrusion", you may have noticed going down in some novels or movies you might have been exposed to. It's where the Author or movie maker talks directly to the Audience either via a character or directly through a narrative, generally to explain a point or to give a broad wink if things are getting slightly beyond the weird acceptance level. For example in JC's The Thing (1982) after a decapitated head sprouts legs and starts scuttling away a character turns directly to the camera and says "You have to be fucking kidding me!", which is exactly what the Audience are thinking at the time. Jason Franks takes this one step beyond in having not only a narrator present throughout the comic, giving McBlack and the reader directions, but also having McBlack talk directly to the narrator, and thus the reader. This really shouldn't work, but somehow Franks kicks a major with it. What it does do is strangely make the reader aware they are in an artificial world with the game, yet somehow making it even more plausible that McBlack exists in some sort of reality outside the game. It's a total immersion trick that Franks pulls off with a deft touch.
Before finishing with the actual content, I should point out there's something of a Star Wars homage going down. Well at least there might be for anyone who actually managed to make it to the third of the recent trilogy of Lucas' space opera epics. Since there was a huge attrition rate in that collection of movies as Lucas proved he should leave the writing to others, a few readers may miss the connection. Hey go hire the movie I'm not about to belabour the point, we're all here for our McBlack fix yo. And it might not be a wink if I had to be honest.
Your MOS issue will arrive in full glorious colour on glossy pages as Black Glass Press ensures we are aware that we have a fully professional comic in our grubby hands. The format is U.S comic, so no surprises there, and the page count (didn't do one) is about the same as you would expect from Yank books down your local emporium. And before anyone makes anything like a snide comment, MOS will set you back $5 rather than your life savings, as some imports seem to demand. What happened to the strong Aussie dollar?
The artwork, colours, and print, are rock solid making MOS a pleasure to read. I always wonder if a collaborative effort is the best approach for a comic to be honest, but Jason Franks seems to have the knack of pulling divergent teams together and getting some synchronicity happening through the process. Panels range from what you would expect in an old Atari game, nice touch for those of us who groove to retro, to some complex compositions that appear simple on the face of things. Overall an excellent package on the art front presenting excellent value for your dollar ratio, insert your own management buzz term.
I had a hoot with MOS, nice to get back on reading terms with McBlack, and am now sweating on the next comic featuring the lovable rogue. Can't believe I just wrote "lovable", street cred dropping. The comic was innovative, full of style, and should be on the top of any comic loving geek's shopping list. Jason Franks once again proves comics do not have to fit narrow perceptions, full recommendation kids.
As stated somewhere above McBlack has a $5 (AUD) price tag and is available from all good Comix stores, as well as online via Black Glass's Official Site. While on the subject of web addies, McBlack has his very own web presence right here, knock yourself out.