If you’ve ever read a Kieron Gillen comic, you likely know that he’s incredibly smart. Witty, loquacious, and insightful, the only real not-positive statement I can make about his writing is that he doesn’t seem to write characters who aren’t at least two of those three. For some people, this might be a turn off. Ludocrats is not for these people. Ludocrats is for everyone else.
It seems that Gillen, rather than back down from what I’ve said about him, decided to go all in. Roping in Jim Rossignol, Jeff Stokely, Tamra Bonvillain, and Clayton Cowles into this project, it looks like Gillen’s decided to indulge himself in gratuitous hedonism. Ludocrats #1 is a delirious fantasy of all things unbelievable, filled to the brim with academic, literary toilet humor.
The very first page of this comic lets you know exactly what you’re in for without actually preparing you for anything that will follow, with the words, “we tried to imagine a better world. We failed.” This book is balls-to-the-wall wild from the very beginning, with every page adding something new to this ludicrous universe. Really, there’s no word to describe it other than ludicrous, which is the entire point. For the entire duration of this single issue, you can really feel all the creators laughing uproariously as they do their best to outdo themselves each and every panel.
Now, it’s difficult to discuss Ludocrats without just talking about the humor, because the humor is really the point. But it’s not humor without purpose, or humor without substance. So much of it is a clear and pointed subversion of classic fantasy tropes — it opens on a wedding that’s also an execution, and it closes on the abduction of a very capable woman as a moronic man she just met vows to rescue her.
I have to stress that this isn’t just Kieron Gillen’s endeavor — each creator adds their own flavor to the book, making it something wholly unique and impossible to replicate. Right off the bat, Jeff Stokely and Tamra Bonvillain do their best to grab your attention with some ludicrous displays.
The very first page of artwork is a splash on a gargantuan nude man covered in blood. Yet, he’s not really scary or threatening. More than anything, he looks, well, ludicrous. Which, that’s basically the best endorsement I can make of how successful these creators were on this book. Clayton Cowles adds his own signature style to the book by making every word balloon and caption look interesting at the very least. And obviously Jim Rossignol’s words are equally as involved as Gillen’s — this book would not be the same without them.
I’m doing my best to avoid spoiling this book for you, because honestly this book isn’t something that should be experienced through a review. All you need to know is the core premise of Ludocrats is that being boring is a capital offense, and must be avoided at all costs. This first issue meets that goal with flying colors, and I have a very strong feeling that the rest of the series will too.