Mutated animals are unleashed in a New York airport, plunging a stranded punk rock band into the fight of their lives. It’s gonna get messy!
Right off the bat, there are some really clever touches in Terminal Punks. The fact that everything kind of goes sideways because a rich guy doesn’t want to follow proper procedures and health regulations — well, it feels oddly relevant. Also, the main group of characters in the titular band are very fun to follow, each shining through with a distinct personality. You can tell that these characters really like each other, and they bicker and rib one another like real friends would. Matthew Erman’s script shines in these fun interactions.
However, as a reader, I had a few issues with the overall narrative. There’s a lot of expository dialogue that feels more than a little awkward. Several characters will announce things to one another that they already know. At one point, a character tells himself who he is. However, sometimes exposition like this is a necessary evil, particularly in a first issue.
There are a ton of ancillary characters introduced throughout the issue, many of whom go unnamed and are followed for multiple pages before not having any impact on the story. Much of the time, these characters are shouting over each other, and as a result, some of the finer points of the story are kind of lost in translation. There are also a few scenes where the side characters seem to be reacting to things that nobody actually said to them. There’s a weird disconnect, like nobody is listening to each other, but it doesn’t seem intentional. There is also one instance of a character saying the word “grizzly” when they mean “grisly.”
On a positive note, the artwork by Shelby Criswell is delightful, with a bright and bombastic style that is reminiscent of both Sunday comics and a punk rock fanzine. There’s an anarchic quality to it, one that makes the reader feel as though anything could happen on the next page, which works for the goofy tone of the story.
The lettering from Micah Myers is a lot of fun, particularly when it comes to some of the cartoon sound effects. These are all designed with their own feel and weight, with some splendidly creative onomatopoeias (one highlight is simply the word “MENACING” appearing as a monster sidles into view).
The gory scenes maintain a fantastic balance of graphic violence and silly cartoonish bits. At one point, a character is seen with his entrails hanging out of his stomach, but his eyes are X-ed out like he’s Wile E. Coyote at the end of a particularly bad scrap with the Roadrunner.
There are some really fun and violent gags in the issue. One of the highlights occurs when the lead characters recoil in terror as a severed head rolls down a luggage claim.
There are also a few gags that don’t work. There’s one moment when a character looks over in one direction to see if there are any employees at the airport, only to see one lone traveler waiting in line. The next panel shows that traveler having been killed, seemingly very quickly and by some off-panel attack. The reason this doesn’t exactly work on the page is that the character looking in their direction is still looking that way and doesn’t react. Luckily, weird little visual disconnects like this are few and far between.
This first issue didn’t quite come together for me on a story level, but there is something infectious about the wild artwork and the attitude of the main characters. Also, as someone who loves to make playlists, I adored seeing one written out for the reader at the end of the issue.
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