Do you feel neglected? Then it’s time to get infected with this slice of psychedelic anarchism from Owen Michael Johnson and Indio.
Raygun Roads, or to give it it’s full title, Raygun Roads and & The Kittlebach Pirates, The Infinity Loop Death-Trap of Ulysses Pomp, is more than your ordinary comic. Literally. It’s sensory overload for dispirited hearts everywhere, with an integrated (and free) soundtrack that soothes your soul while your brain fights to race through the 48 page flip-album like a writer on Red Bull.
Raygun Roads and her Kittlebach Pirates are a band of punk-ass anarchists who hurtle into the grime of our world to boot it in the crotch and save Vincent Paradise from his mundane gloom at the hands of a Mr Shankley type job centre worker and/or the D-Void infected and Ullyses Pomp, shaman of shame and ruler of the Porpoise of Purpose.
With Vincent’s artistic soul being corroded by the capitalist desolation of our society, it’s up to him to save the world.
But that isn’t where the book begins. Instead, we open on the mourning of our dead heroine, Raygun Roads.
If this is familiar it’s because you’ve been here before. Let the needle drop… and find everything within.
There is a place I used to go, sadly now a vanishing kingdom. Ray Bradbury dreamed it and Jack Kirby designed it. They met in a diner over chocolate cake and dandelion wine, and by the time the bill arrived it was so.
The glory of this sacred wunderland is divine, with the book wearing its influences proudly on its panels. Kirby is indeed alive and well within these pages, bumping uglies in a coffin with Tom Wolfe and William Burroughs, Iggy and the Stooges, Robert Crumb and Allen Ginsberg, and above all, most of all, with Flex Mentallo, lovingly tucked in beside syringes and pills.
The plot – a tale of fictional characters breaking into our own dimension and becoming more real, who rather than being figments of imagination have a story as real as the head they reside in, and the kind of meta on meta on meta that may require acid to fully penetrate – certainly has some elements in common with Morrison and Quitely’s philosophical superhero meta-comic.
But this is no sneaky swipe, rather a love letter to the psychedelic maestros that have come before, from Morrison to Kirby to Moebius and a sprinkle of Crumb.
Something that could perhaps only be fully realised by the astounding artwork from Indio. The eye-fucking fluorescent colours and eye-fuckable gorgeously grotesque characters suggest extreme and confrontational punk art to the max, yet the beautifully fine line-work betrays a genius that sets this apart from others, a kindness in the hard crowd. Indio is really off the leash here, the artwork is overflowing with a crazed energy that leaves the reader breathless and crumpled, buzzed and angry all at once.
Panels are stacked evenly, conservatively even, but in contrast to the utter insanity that resides within them, this is perhaps a mercy on us all, enabling the reader to focus fully on the colour of these dreams.
The lettering obeys no such rules, launching across pages and spreading itself large and proud – not least when introducing the various track titles as the comic progresses, and those killer sound effects that float in a most peculiar and pleasing way.
As for the band members themselves, Raygun Roads has shades of a snarling Tank Girl; Miles Motors is the punk-ass basist that everyone lusts for, lime and limpid green; Kali-Fornicata is our pornographic priestess on drums; Clarence Clash is the Kirby krackle on sax; and on lead guitar we have the drag queen solar stream, Asteroid Anne-Phetamine.
I mean shit, do you really need to know more than that?
Side A of the book blasts us into the story, with Vinny looking down the barrel of getting a ‘real’ job working for the man and drowning in the system. The anarchist punk band tear down the walls of his reality and launch themselves to his rescue from the D-Void zombie drones, who try and suck the magnificence out of the band.
Blasting through his psyche and hurtling towards the middle of the book, the reader is then instructed to flip to side B as they close on their destination – the Porpoise of Purpose, staffed by prawn drones in a perfect representation of capitalist oppression and its creativity vacuum.
Teenagers across the world in their anti-establishment dreams and desires start to die, their hopes literally being swallowed by the bastard villain. A rebellion rises, the prawns revolt, and transformations are made.
It’s social commentary and satire by way of complete insanity and a genuinely clever infinity loop in both fiction and reality that will have you reading and re-reading it over and over again.
Ullyses Pomp: The default British temperament is depression. Surrender to it, lad. Accept that yur worthless. That you have nothing important to say.
Pomp is a putrid beast of a man, and a superego gone wrong, in whom we recognise every frustration and failing of our messed up world of political spin and drudgery – not only does he have a swastika, Room 101, and Jim’ll Fix It badges, the fucker has a I <3 Maggie pin too.
But it’s Vin’s journey that is the heart of the story, for this is his head, and ours too, as he slowly changes throughout the book, a chemical change like a laser beam, becoming his real self while voicing the frustrations of the old.
Kali: Congrats honey! You’re self actualizing. I’m a very proud archetype.
Vincent: No! Stop talking in song lyrics! Someone explain to me where we’re going!
Miles: Dude. If you keep thinking so literally the universe is doomed.
Vincent: Indulge me, fucker.
He’s the everyman character, our avatar in the world of possibility, while Raygun and her crew are our sigils waiting for our energy and passion and belief to ignite them into our own potential. They’re the rant on our lips and the flames on our soul, screaming for release against a barrage of “meh”.
All the children may be insane, but it’s only because they’re right. And this medium, comics, is the perfect expression of that rage and madness. Some may choose to write in the political papers of their anarchistic quibbles, predictably torn to pieces by the minority who masquerade as the masses, but this is what comics are for.
The fact it comes with this one comes with its own cosmic punktastic soundtrack and invokes the spirit of vinyl is just extra perfection.
Ride the snake folks, pick this comic up and re-charge your soul. You can read/hear Side A for free at the Raygun Roads website.
And even if you think I’m talking shite, give it a read before laying down all thoughts and surrendering to the void. Why not, soft lad?
Laura Sneddon is a comics journalist and academic, writing for the mainstream UK press with a particular focus on women and feminism in comics. Currently working on a PhD, do not offend her chair leg of truth; it is wise and terrible. Her writing is indexed at comicbookgrrrl.com and procrastinated upon via @thalestral on Twitter.