The Apocalipstix

The Apocalipstix are Mandy, the leader; Dot, on guitar; and Megumi, drummer. They were playing a gig when the big one hit, which serves as a jolt from the previous “happy-go-lucky girl group trying to make it big” motivation. By “girl group”, don’t think Supremes; think Go-Gos, rocking hard.

The Apocalipstix cover
The Apocalipstix
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The three find themselves the only survivors of the city (which led me to think “poor clubgoers, all wiped out”, but it’s typical of this book that we’re not supposed to think about anything beyond what we’re given; too much attention to ramifications means the whole thing falls apart). They hit the road to find another audience, because they want to keep rocking.

Promotional material compares the book to Josie & the Pussycats meets Mad Max — to which KC said, “not a lot of crossover between those audiences, is there?” And that’s part of the problem I had with the book. Who’s it for? It feels to me like something I would expect to see from AIT/Planet Lar — a clever-concept “hang on and enjoy” ride aimed at the reader thriving on adrenaline and attracted by wacky ideas that sound like they were dreamed up over a bar napkin.

It’s written by Ray Fawkes, whose other work I am unfamiliar with, and most of the problems I had with it can be put down to a less experienced writer needing more help with structure. The three chapters are separate stories that all end anticlimactically. In the first one, a group of bad guys turns out to be big fans of the group. We’re told that halfway through, so watching them play it out, with no surprise or additional revelation, falls flat.

The second chapter has the girls fighting giant ants. That’s it. I thought at first that it would show the super-competent Mandy to have some kind of chink in her armor, but no. By the end, she’s even more super-human in her abilities. There’s no conclusion, just “that’s enough pages, let’s stop.” The third chapter, featuring a battle of the bands, also lacks an ending. This time, it’s setup for a promised second volume. Given that this book came out two years after it was supposed to, let’s hope it doesn’t take as long.

Apocalipstix page 4

The art, by Cameron Stewart (Catwoman, Seaguy), is a weird, ambitious mix. Early on, there’s an astounding image of a mushroom cloud as a skull that could have come right out of an anti-nuclear propaganda piece from my adolescence. It’s just this side of cliché but still affecting.

Individual splash pages provide great images of powerful women, but this is a better source of art inspiration (what I call a “tattoo book”) than an enjoyable story. There are plenty of cool pictures and very cinematic two-page spreads and full-page panels to set up dynamic action. The stylized characters are almost cartoony, which removes the sense of danger or menace of this post-apocalypse world… and then someone’s head explodes. (Ick.)

The action-packed visuals can lack clarity. For instance, I had trouble following the storytelling during an early chase sequence. The band is trailing some creeps who’ve stolen their instruments, but that premise wasn’t clear to me until I read the pages three times. Finally, I noticed a bit of drum drawn in the corner of the first panel. We don’t see the instrument again until the supposed payoff, which made the joke fall flat for me. Then, although the drum was a big deal, we don’t see the band going back for it. That’s the kind of thing that should be handled with one throwaway line of dialogue to prevent the reader continuing to wonder about it.

The book seems to want to be a fast-paced movie, so much so that it leaves out reader hints and help in following the story. Annoyingly, Megumi only speaks Japanese, so all of her dialogue is translated in captions. The device quickly becomes wearying, tracking down where the English version appears in the panel, and I’m not sure of its point (or if it has one). Giving her the most dialogue of any character is a mistake.

Personally, if I was one of only three girls left in the world, I wouldn’t bother wearing midriff-baring low-cut tops, garter-belt stockings, or short shorts, but maybe all they had left was stage wardrobe of that type. I found myself making up explanations for questions raised by the book that it didn’t bother to answer, but if you’re reading for plausibility, this is the wrong book for you. Don’t think, just look.

About a third of the book is available in an extensive online preview. The book has its own website. The launch party is Wednesday, August 6, in Toronto. (A complimentary copy for this review was provided by the publisher.)

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