“BALLISTIC” (Comic Book Review)Book and Comic Reviews,Books/Art/Culture,News Ken W. Hanley
Subtlety can be a fragile thing. With some forms of storytelling, depending on the tale that’s being told, it could be an artist’s greatest ally, helping plant the seeds to a gradual reveal or hide some incredible character traits that become integral to the plot by the third act. However, for some stories, the absence of subtlety can be inappropriate in execution especially when paired against action and characters who benefit from the colorful and explicit. And in extreme cases such as Adam Egypt Mortimer and Darick Robertson’s BALLISTIC, subtlety is almost nowhere to be seen because the name of the game is cacophony and insanity, which BALLISTIC plays effortlessly.
To those unfamiliar, BALLISTIC (now out from Black Mask Press) is essentially the psychopathic and hyperactive cousin hybrid of DEADPOOL and BLADE RUNNER, as we follow a wannabe gangster in a dystopian, hedonistic universe where the obscene and corrupt are rewarded and all signs of goodness are relegated to those benign in their selfishness. Of course, this wannabe gangster isn’t alone either, paired with an organic handgun that swears, is addicted to drugs and, when not completely wasted, causes reckless damage on anything that pisses it off. Throw in high profile crime lords, a corporate conspiracy, explosive bio-technical viruses and a cross-species population, BALLISTIC is an anarchic fever dream with a lush, vibrant presentation that doubles down on fun by discarding all sorts of gritty seriousness from its atmosphere.
However, even during the most chaotic and outright convoluted parts of BALLISTIC, there’s a confident sense of existence within the world on display. The rules and physics of the universe, no matter how often bent and twisted, remains continuous in their presentation and execution throughout. It’s all a part of building a bigger world in BALLISTIC, and whether it’s the breakneck pace of the narrative or the truly immersive and detailed illustrations on display, BALLISTIC feels as if there is a story around every corner, and that every questionably sane inhabitant of said universe belongs there. In fact, BALLISTIC almost contains a language of its own, much of which is brilliantly clarified in the annotations in the end of a novel.
While Adam Egypt Mortimer showed a deft maturity in his feature film debut SOME KIND OF HATE, his wilder and weirder side rears its head in BALLISTIC, engaging in unique and questionably tasteful action while telling an obscenely original story altogether. Mortimer injects a frenetic sensibility to the storytelling and, in doing so, offers a fast-talking antihero lead that, while familiar, is less traditional and much more simple-minded than these stories generally put together. Meanwhile, Mortimer does an excellent job at never pulling a punch, going down every insane storytelling avenue despite what odd and offensive place it may take him, and never once does it feel anything but organic and precisely composed.
Meanwhile, even if you’re not a fan of Mortimer’s mix of outrageous, violent humor and splattery sci-fi madness, this writer doubts anyone can disavow Darick Robertson’s robust and jaw-dropping illustrations, creating a one-of-a-kind visual palette that feels somehow cartoonish yet cinematic. Every image jumps right off the page, stealing your imagination in the psychotropic and explosive scenes that look like AMERICAN SPLENDOR through the eyes of Neveldine/Taylor, which is probably the greatest compliment any piece of art can really ask for. But Robertson also takes pride in the depth of BALLISTIC’s images as well, crafting painstaking detail into even the most obscure background image while adding an increased sense of definition to any and everything within the foreground. It’s absolutely magnificent work in an already impressive career, and Robertson might even be raising the bar for even the most immersive contemporary illustrators.
Although it will likely polarize its more sensitive readers, especially for those less accustomed open world sci-fi, BALLISTIC is a gorgeous romp for those willing to roll with its surreal, sophomoric vision. Ridiculous, violent and utterly fearless, the combination of Adam Egypt Mortimer’s imaginative insanity and Darick Robertson’s incredible illustrations make for a modern tale of outlaws and their talking weapons in a world that truly feels endless in nature. BALLISTIC is a curious, mischievous addition to the widespread canon of comic books, but a worthy one nonetheless, especially for those who appreciate beautiful destruction and mindless immorality.