Alien invasions and Men in Black are having a bit of a renaissance. Interesting… Mutafukaz is a comic book first published in 2006 but is seeing a timely re-issue with this edition Tome 1: Dark Meat City, written, drawn and coloured by Run. This collects the first four issues (chapters) of the comics, but also presents some gorgeous extras, such as insights into the genesis of the series.
The backstory is thus: Mutafukaz is set in an alternative reality where a huge earthquake hit California in 1966. The San Andrea Fault releases the Big One; leaving LA and most of San Francisco in the ocean. A new city grows up on the Mexican border; a dangerous city full of gangs, freaks, immigrants and genetically-modified police jellyfish.
Angelino is a young loser like thousands of others in the Dark Meat City. He and his friend Vinz are squatters at a seedy hotel room in the Latin Quarter, Rios Rosas. Angelino spends his days watching Mexican wrestling matches on TV, delivering pizzas and having bizarre metaphysical discussions with his roommate. A stupid scooter accident will plunge Angelino into a hurricane of unimaginable trouble, as he becomes the only person on Earth capable of recognizing the vicious cosmic entities that walk among us, who are readying themselves to invade the planet.
Angelino is an unusual character in this book. He is drawn with a squat body and enormous round head. Vinz is even weirder – he has a flaming skull; something akin to Ghostrider. Almost all the other characters are drawn more realistically, albeit mostly buffed up or occasionally wiry. But more recognisably human anyway. This, in essence, is the entry point into Run’s oddball world; a twisted and ultraviolent take on gang culture and alien conspiracies.
Not long into the book, Angelino has a weird dream (designed by CHICK/Semper Fi) – which looks fantastic – and after waking, thinks he sees something bright in the sky. Meanwhile, he struggles to live in his room with Vinz and his (deliberate) pet cockroaches, having had his accident. So he goes to the doctor, and en route, notices some people have odd shadows. And so the adventure begins. Gangs, sinister character in hats and raincoats, and huge secret police-types are all out to get Angelino, and yet he doesn’t know why.
The drawing style and colours are very dark (literally and metaphorically) and evocative. The city is menacing and the characters threatening. There’s a roughness to Run’s art which suits the narrative. Although there isn’t much actual plot. Most of the book is concerned with running, chasing, shooting and beating. There are some very ‘close-to-the-bone’ moments, in terms of tone and art. On occasion, the colouring is so dark and the action so frantic, you can’t quite see what is going on. But there are also a few lighter moments and some humorous dialogue, which helps with the pacing. There’s plenty of deliberate madness and weird ideas to keep the reader interested too.
The third chapter is a bit odd however. The dark colours go, replaced by a monotone green theme. Most of this section is taken up with a ferocious and new version of Mexican wrestling, followed by the assault on Angelino’s room by the aforementioned secret police. I’m not sure the point of this change in style, as chapter 4 returns to full colour.
There’s some bigger-picture stuff in the comic too, such as a political/terrorism sub-plot, but in reality, all this books is about is weird characters and ultra-violence. Nothing wrong with that of course, but it left me wanting a little more. The whole package, in the case of Mutafukaz is greater than the parts. Taken as a whole publication, there is plenty to enjoy in terms of the art and style. Taken as a science-fiction alien conspiracy story, it lacks a little punch. There is potential, but a little less frantic panels full of fighting and darkness, and a little more plot would have taken Mutafukaz up a notch into the realms of a great comic. It won’t appeal to all, but those fans of this kind of story and style won’t be disappointed.
Reviewer: Ian J Simpson