PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Comics

Blackgas #1-3

Jody Macgregor

A dirty secret of the privileged is locked away, here, like a skeleton in the closet with flesh still hanging from its bones.


Blackgas #1-3

Publisher: Avatar Press
Length: 23
Writer: Warren Ellis
Price: $3.99
Contributors: Artist: Max Fiumara
First date: 2006-01
Last date: 2006-05
cat_label_url
Amazon

Zombies. You may have heard of them. Apparently they're kind of popular right now. You might also have heard of Warren Ellis, whose name goes above the title of Blackgas (the artist, Max Fiumara doesn't get a mention until the inside, poor guy). The story has it that Warren Ellis and zombies came together as part of a bet with the publisher.

"Hey Warren, I bet you can't write a zombie comic."

"You obviously haven't read Global Frequency #3. I bloody well can."

"Prove it then."

It's not the most deep and meaningful inspiration for writing a story ever, but this is zombies we're talking about here; deep and meaningful are entirely optional. That said, zombies have always made an excellent metaphor for whatever issue the writer feels like exploring. In Romero's movies they're the unwashed masses rising up to take the houses and malls of the privileged. In Peter Jackson's Brain Dead (a.k.a. Dead Alive), they're the reverse: a dirty secret of the privileged that has to be locked away, a skeleton in the closet with flesh still hanging from its bones. In Blackgas, the zombies represent us at our basest and most primitive: they kill, eat, procreate and that's all.

Yes, I said procreate. Warren Ellis has given us shagging zombies, the gloriously sick old man. There will be more than one scene that makes you go "Eeeuuwww."

In a clever twist, these zombies remain partially aware and continue talking post-zombification. That's not a totally new idea -- zombies have been talking since Return of the Living Dead let them moan "Braaaiiins" -- but Blackgas's zombies are more articulate than that. The gas of the book's title detaches the victims' higher brain functions and forces them to watch while lizard brains take over their bodies. Blackgas is at its most horrifying when the zombies look down at what they're doing and say things like "stop me this isn't me kill me", or worse, revel in what they're doing. As you might have guessed, especially if you've seen the gory alternate covers Avatar released, this is not a kid's book. Not even a little bit.

Between the covers of these three issues, Max Fiumara displays his gift for entrails and severed bits to the fullest. For a guy with a realistic-looking style, though, Fiumara's faces are a little too elastic -- there are moments when the characters are difficult to recognize because their faces seem to have undergone major surgery between panels -- but he has a good eye for shadows, and clearly knows how to use black to its fullest effect.

Blackgas is very cinematic in its structure, taking its format from American horror movies. The story starts with two good-looking kids, and everything is bright, sunny, idyllic, and safe for most of the first issue. Their dialogue is snappy and conveniently boils down everything we need to know about them. In the first conversation we learn that Soo is a California girl with a phobia of pike; her boyfriend Tyler is a liberal arts student; and they're on a trip to Smoky Island, off the north end of the east coast, to meet his folks -- all that in 10 panels. Hollywood scriptwriters could learn a few things from Ellis. Things go wrong for Soo and Tyler immediately after they have sex, because if dead-teenager movies teach us anything: it's that sex leads to trouble. They also teach us that we should avoid Native American burial grounds, and yes, Blackgas has one of those too -- of a kind. As you'd expect from a cinematic story there's an explosive climax and an opening for a sequel.

But Avatar droped the ball a little here, undercutting the ending by putting a block of text underneath the final panel that says "To be continued in Blackgas 2 #1, coming out in September, 2006." This detracts from the impact of the final scene and is unnecessary when there's already a full-page ad for the sequel in the book. Hawking the next story as soon as the current one ends is cheesy. It's like having "The End?" on a title card at the end of the movie. It's one of those clumsy, old-fashioned techniques like an over-reliance on thought balloons, sound effects, and motion lines that most of Ellis's work avoids (there's a single sound effect in Blackgas, one of few you'll find in his books).

That bit of carping aside, Blackgas is an original and well-crafted take on a subgenre that would, in less capable hands, be clichéd. The media may be saturated with zombies at the moment, but with stories like this to keep it going, our love affair with the undead isn't going to end any time soon. In fact, if Ellis has anything to do with it, it's going to be a literal love affair.

Eeeuuwww.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.

Film

15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.

Music

Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.

Music

Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.

Music

Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.

Music

Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.

Music

Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.

Film

The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.

Music

British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.

Film

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Music

​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.

Music

The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.

Music

Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.

Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.