If you’ve seen the title and the subtitle, you get the picture. This is a book titled Murder Falcon and it’s about the power of metal in face of all evil. Oh and it’s by Daniel Warren Johnson. That’s kind of important. If you’re familiar at all with Johnson’s work, this book should be of no surprise to you. It’s right in his wild wheelhouse of positively exciting insanity — in the best way, of course. And so you get the idea here: big humanoid falcon guy with a giant robo-arm and lightning about him, while a dude with a guitar is just shredding.
That image right there is all you need to know about the book, really. It’s energetic, it’s over the top, it’s ridiculous beyond belief and it’s fun. It’s very fun. It’s “yell out super-attacks while beating up evil kaiju with the power of metal music” fun. If that sounds like your kinda thing, this is your book. It’s absolutely the book you should pick up, because it’s a book that accomplishes and pulls off what it intends so perfectly. Murder Falcon isn’t here to be silent; it’s here to howl in the face of darkness with the sublime super-energy of music. It’s the idea of using music to help and heal oneself in the face of unending, impossible and massive fears taken to the ultimate extreme, literalized in classic comic form. And thus we have The Veldar, an army of evil cosmic kaijus that are literally fear and terror of the human race embodied. They are all the darkness, all the hate, every negative thought, made into a giant spider-monster or another manner of impossible beasty that must be confronted.
Except it can’t just be beaten with ordinary punching, oh no. It requires something else entirely. It requires musicians who play instruments which summon down special spirits from a cosmic realm dubbed only as “The Heavy.” And the spirits that come down? They can fight these evil Veldar, yeah, but their powers come from the music that’s played. So it all comes down to the performer and how well they can play their drums or bass or guitar, you get the idea. Thus you have a setup that’s all about artists, musicians for contextual specificity and their ability to confront and face their fears. But in classic Johnson fashion, it has astonishing scale, scope and ridiculousness that could only be pulled off on the comic page. If you’re hoping to witness some of his glorious double-page spreads, they’re there. Good lord are they there, and they’re mind-blowingly spectacular, just as you’d imagine. With Mike Spicer on colors, this is a book that blows the top off in splendid fashion, as Johnson and letterer Rus Wooton letter the pants off this book.
If you’re familiar with the scene from Mad Max with the performer, imagine that same energy, but used to summon cosmic forces in thunder and lightning, with the sheer power of METAL to wage a war of one’s own internal consciousness externally, where in your best parts get to punch the heck out of the worst, while yelling phrases like “FISTS OF A THOUSAND PHRGIAN SUNS.” That bit might seem straight out of something like Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, but that’s a very, very good thing.
With Johnson, Spicer and Wooton together, the book is a potent mixture of text and imagery. Spicer sets the palette for Johnson’s work to operate in, as Johnson lets all hell break loose, teaming with Wooton to compose lettering that integrates perfectly with the artwork and enhances it on every level. There’s a crude rawness to it, an unrefined energy that just feels like a wild animal let loose and that’s such a perfect fit for this book and its tone. The graffiti-esque effects that feel rough, alongside the font choice for all the ballooned text, which isn’t a typical choice, really helps establish a unique vibe for the book from the get-go.
Should any of this sound really exciting to you, you owe it to yourself and go out and grab this book. It’s Jack Kirby meets anime in a thunderstorm of metal. It’s the pure rush of listening to a song, throwing up the devil horns and moshing, all bottled up and then pressed into pages. The dynamism of the work leaps out of every panel or cover, as is evident from all the imagery. And through it all, it’s also incredibly personal work. It’s about a single artist who wants to just give in and quit and has every reason presented before him to — in fact, it’s what the evil Veldar ask him to do, so he can be rid of his suffering at last. But that’s not life. That’s not art. That’s not music. That ain’t metal. And so it’s about that. It’s about grabbing onto that thing you love, whatever that thing is, even when it’s hardest, even when it’s oh so impossible and still doing it, while staring down your terrors in the face.
While the book takes a bit to get into full gear, when it does, it’s just astonishing to watch. It’s kaiju chaos and musical mayhem of the highest order and it’s a mix that you’ll be hard pressed to find anywhere else. In a way, Murder Falcon feels like some kind of cult classic cartoon that should’ve existed and yet never did. And now here it is, preaching the gospel of metal and music in the face of our insecurities. Yes, it’s silly, yes it’s goofier than goofy and that’s the joy of it. Just think, if you had a guitar that summoned a cosmic being literally named “Murder Falcon” who went by “Murf,” who just wanted two things: Metal and beer, you’d probably be having a lot of fun, too. However, since no such guitars exist, you can experience that joy second-hand through this book of raw comic energy and insanity. Do yourself a favor, grab Murder Falcon.
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