Fusing comics with music, Jim Mahfood’s Kick Drum Comix spans pop culture with wicked art and some pretty cool musical accompaniment (sold separately).
The first striking thing about either issue of Kick Drum Comix is that the issues are bigger than the standard size comic. As soon as you pick up the book, it’s already unconventional. This larger format draws attention to the vibrant art, but in order to absorb the full experience of Kick Drum Comix, you’ll have to turn the pages and read the stories.
In Kick Drum Comix, Jim Mahfood, also know as Food One, does what he does best, channeling a lot of energy through his art. His style is hyper and his art tends to jump out at the reader. On this series, he is accompanied by some very talented colorists who assist with the art’s incredible vivaciousness. There’s definitely a lot going on between the page and the reader’s eyes. The art alone is worth all $5.99 cover price (each) for these two comics.
Every Food One piece I’ve seen always has a special musical quality to it. There is a flow to Mahfood’s work that can only be described as “visual music”. Each story (two per issue) has not only some sort of musical element, but also an accompanying “soundtrack” These soundtracks range from Dr. Octagon, to James Pants, to the Misfits, to John Coltrane. If there is anything Mahfood is showing off, it’s the range his tastes in music display, and each story works its soundtracks into the feel and flow of the story.
The first story in issue one is “Death of the Popmaster”. The Popmaster character is modeled upon a Kool Keith alias, but in Mahfood’s hands he becomes a detestable rap villain. The art, much like the Popmaster himself, is in-ya-face and intense. The story is based on a strange good vs. evil dichotomy between the Popmaster and his daughter Sharky that works as a very strong satire for the music industry today. The exaggeration of the story of the Popmaster’s natural evil coupled with the back-and-forth motion of the war between he and Sharky is so humorous and inane that it has to mean something.
The second story, titled “Coltrane’s Reed” is a departure from the intensity, glamour and horror of the Popmaster, focusing instead on two almost-juxtaposed elements: skateboarding and jazz. The story flows like a Coltrane composition and moves freely from panel to panel. What I really enjoy about this story is that it takes jazz from that fine-art-mentality and sticks it in a contemporary urban setting with skateboards so that it is no longer elitist music, but has become accessible to a younger audience.
The second issue starts with Mahfood revisiting and reinvigorating two characters he created twenty years ago. “Brian and Rod in: Battle of the Bands, Battle of the Hearts” contains the raw and rebellious punk rock attitude of uber-cool skate punks just looking to have a good time with some chicks. This story definitely captures the rebellious punk love-and-rage phenomenon.
The series finishes with what I think is the best story of the four. “Echo Chambers: Bombastic Avenging Disco Space Goddess” is a hyper-sexualized sci-fi action story that not only showcases Mahfood’s artistic talents but also colorist Justin Stewart’s own flair. The story borders on the same insanity that the Popmaster story thrives on, but the art and dialogue really pull it together and make it stand out from the rest of the stories. Mahfood doesn’t stick to his typical elements but manages to do something new that I personally would like to see more of in his future work.
The art is fantastic, but given Jim Mahfood’s previous work, it couldn’t be anything less. What really stands out, surprisingly, is the writing. Food One is no Alan Moore, but where most books that try to mix comics and music fail miserably, Kick Drum Comix defies that trend, proving in four short stories that music and comics combined can really work. Instead of injecting music into the comic or vice-versa, Food One blends them together like a DJ; he mixes the visuals and the sound with the attitude to create a hyper-wicked experience!