I have always had a deep affection for weirder comics. When I was a young kid, way too young honestly, I remember snagging the first The Mask trade off the shelf of my LCS and being absolutely amazed by how zany and bonkers it was (not to mention horrifically violent. Seriously, it’s a very rough book). From there I jumped into Doom Patrol by Morrison, Transmetropolitan by Warren Ellis, and a whole lot of other great Vertigo and Indie titles along the way.
There’s something refreshing about a madcap, zany book where the rules exist as starting points for the adventure, not the boundary that keeps the fun grounded. I like books where you can tell that the author has not only allowed their imagination to run free but also that they are having a blast along the way.
This is also why my favourite MCU movie is still Guardians of the Galaxy, followed closely by Thor: Ragnarok. Don’t get me wrong, there are some great films in that universe, but if I just want to relax and have a good time those are the films I am reaching for.
Which brings me to this week’s recommendation, Ludocrats #1 from Image Comics. Here’s the blurb:
The Ludocrats! The aristocrats of ludicrous! A collision of the ornate fantasy of Dune and an M-rated Asterix & Obelix! Baron Otto Von Hades and Professor Hades Zero-K are here, and they’re going to save us all have a nice time. KIERON GILLEN (DIE, THE WICKED + THE DIVINE) and JIM ROSSIGNOL (Sir, You Are Being Hunted) write! JEFF STOKELY (The Spire) draws! TAMRA BONVILLAIN (Once & Future) colours! Clayton Cowles (BITTER ROOT, DIE) letters! The universe screams in pleasure, writhing, finally satisfied, complete, joyous!
Please note that that summary is word for word from Image themselves. If you found it hard to follow, this might not be your book.
First things first, is Kieron Gillen the most interesting person in the indie comics scene right now? Between Die, Once and Future, and now Ludocrats I don’t think I have ever read a book by him that has left me feeling anything other than the extreme desire to read more books he has written. His world-building is spectacular, his characters are nuanced and believable, and every book he writes somehow manages to be completely unique from what came before it. Not since Warren Ellis have I known a comic author whose work is so consistently good.
(Important side note: If you didn’t read my review of Once and Future I gave it a high recommendation, and if you have never read Die you are literally missing out on one of the best comics ever written. Yeah, I said it!)
Anyways, back to the book. The Ludocrats is written by both Gillen and relative newcomer to comics Jim Rossignol. If you haven’t heard of Rossignol before you can be forgiven because he’s not really known for his comic work (of which there is none before this) but instead is a big name in video gaming circles. He was a video game critic who became a video game producer with his company Big Robot, but this is his first real exploration into the world of comics. From what I have seen of his work I think that he probably had a lot to do with the look and feel of the world the characters are set in and that world is pretty spectacular.
The plot of The Ludocrats is pretty bare-bones but in a good way. Our protagonists, Baron Otto Von Hades and Professor Hades Zero-K attend a wedding. The Baron’s brother, the Eldritch Hyper-Pope, has been acting rather peculiar, a fact that the good Baron dismisses as impossible until his brother sends guards in to bust up his party and arrest the Baron’s lady love.
This plot allows the story to launch itself into a madcap series of misadventures as the Baron and his team of ridiculous helpers set out to free his love and confront his brother. Along the way, we’ll get to witness bloodshed, carnage, and the carnal coupling of a man and a half-woman/ half steam engine which almost destroys an entire town. All in all, it’s good clean fun (it’s actually not clean. Please don’t let your kids read this book. I’m 40 and I don’t know if I’m old enough to read it.)
In addition to the wacky violence and hilarious ridiculousness of The Ludocrats, the real highlight is the amazing art from Jeff Stokely who is clearly having a blast with this comic. He manages to give this completely ridiculous world a very grounded sense of reality that flips back and forth from horrifyingly gruesome to looney toons madness at the drop of the hat. He also has imbued this world with a steampunk sensibility that feels perfectly fitting for a story such as this and is somewhat reminiscent of the recent Matt Groening series Disenchantment, but with a healthy dose of H.P. Lovecraft thrown in for good measure. I’ve heard some reviewers compare it to works such as I Hate Fairyland and Derek Hunter’s Pretty Violent as well, so if those are works you enjoy this is a good work to check out.
Originally The Ludocrats was going to be released in the first week of April. But as we know (or at least, I hope you know) Diamond shut their doors down and the book was put on hold, along with everything else. While that was a bad thing for the industry as a whole, it does mean that there is still time to reach out to your LCS and ask them to order you a copy.
Trust me, this is one title you do not want to miss.