Valiant Comics has quite an intricate universe where most of its characters reside, and to get the most out of them, you usually need some background knowledge. In the case of Punk Mambo – arguably Valiant’s answer to John Constantine – it doesn’t bother to tie into the larger universe, but how does it hold up on its own?
Introduced in the pages of Shadowman in 2013, Victoria Greaves-Trott was created by Peter Milligan and Roberto de la Torre. In 2014, she got her own origin issue with Milligan writing and Robert Gill drawing. The influence of Milligan’s time on Hellblazer years ago looms large in how we see our eponymous anti-hero going from a posh girls’ boarding school, to the slimy gutter of the London punk scene, to sniffing voodoo glue in a Louisiana swamp. Robert Gill does some fine horror-based work and even evokes the art-style of early Vertigo art. This series is very much a tale of revenge and how that informs the character’s role as a social misfit, let alone a voodoo priestess.
What is weird about this trade paperback is that issue #0 is published at the end of the trade, after you’ve read the main arc. This is a weird choice, but sadly that’s the least of the book’s problems. In her five-issue solo series where she is a mystical mercenary for hire, Punk Mambo investigates a series of abductions in the New Orleans gutter punk scene, stumbling upon a deadly mystery that takes her to the haunted shores of Haiti, where she will confront the true price of power.
Having written horror from The Damned for Oni Press to Harrow County for Dark Horse Comics, the prospect of Cullen Bunn writing more in the voodoo horror realm sounds enticing. Despite its exploration of good versus evil through voodoo magic along with a villain with enough wealth to control mystics, it’s all anchored by a protagonist who doesn’t have any emotional connection with anyone and couldn’t care less about the situation. There is the potential of characterization towards her partnership with both the priest Josef and the ghost Marie Laveau, but Punk Mambo doesn’t at all change and thus it’s hard to care about her.
The only thing to really praise about this book is the impressive art by Adam Gorham, whose style blends very well with the gritty reality and the magical realms that Mambo will eventually enter into. It’s certainly not the scariest comic book, but Gorham makes up for it with the creepy creature designs and some trippy visuals presented through his dynamic panel layouts.
If you’re looking for something more outside the box when it comes to Valiant, you may want to look elsewhere. Punk Mambo hasn’t got much to offer new readers, and can feel over-familiar to those who’ve read some supernatural comics.