Shitshow is yet another dystopian superhero story, but I ended up smiling when I read this comic. I may have even chuckled. I hope the creators intended that.
Since my recent look at Dark Knights Death Metal #7, I started to think about how the last ten-plus years have given us — like it or not — a nineties revival, with work that harks back to the glory days of Rob Liefeld, Todd McFarlane and their extreme ilk. I blame this on DC’s New 52 and Bob Harras, who was one of the top brass employed at Marvel in the wake of the original creators of Image finally leaving the soon to be bankrupt company. Marvel tried to recapture that extreme magic, from having creators copy the Image style to even bringing back Rob Liefeld, all with various degrees of failure. DC Comics didn’t learn from that and did pretty much the same thing years later.
Paying homage to the Image style is hard. At its rare best, you get longtime McFarlane collaborator Greg Capullo actually showing tremendous growth or great satire like Doom Force. At its frequent worst, we get Herb Trimpe going back on years of drawing knowledge to imitate Rob Liefeld’s style. The secret pleasure in reading Shitshow #1 was not writer Adam Barnhardt’s serviceable first chapter but artist Samir Samao and his aping of extreme nineties art.
Comics from the early and mid nineties (or even modern books done in that style) leave me cold and hold little reward for sorting out what is happening amidst all the double page spreads and overwriting. With Barnhardt and Samao, I get the impression that they know what they’re doing and are having fun showing over the top mayhem while exhibiting enough craft to leave out early Image’s hardcore yet oddly sterile and no-stakes violence.
The stakes, as Barnhardt would say, are “Real AF” as the first issue also builds up the story of fallen hero Legend and how he got to be fallen. In a way, Shitshow has the same problem as most nineties comics: I’m not sure how the story is going to mesh the drama with the over the top art which makes me smile in its absurdity (though I should say that Samao certainly knows how to draw and makes the grounded scenes work). Scout Comics is an interesting company with books deserving of wider recognition, so I intend to stick around for at least one more issue to see where this story goes or if this can go anywhere at all. At east I’ve had fun so far.