Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
The Apocalipstix, Volume 1
Written by Ray Fawkes; Illustrated by Cameron Stewart
I first encountered the world’s greatest post-apocalyptic band in the Rumble Royale anthology from Canada’s Royal Academy of Illustration and Design. There was a Sam Hiti story in it I wanted, but it also introduced me to The Apocalipstix (and Chip Zdarsky, but that’s another story). It’s well worth tracking down.
Much easier to get is Oni’s publication of the further adventures of The Apocalipstix. The band is sort of the Mad Max version of Josie and the Pussycats. The world has ended in nuclear fire, but that’s not stopping Mandy, Dot, and Meg from going on tour. The End-of-the-World Tour, they call it. The book is made up of three stories, each of which more or less stands on its own, but are all loosely tied together by the context of the girls’ tour.
The first story pits them against a gang of road warriors that have stolen Dot’s bass. The second tale has the girls on a picnic, which of course attracts ants. Giant ones. The last story covers a huge battle of the bands for the prize of enough gas to get to California (which is rumored to be green and fertile).
This isn’t deep stuff. The watchword for Apocalipstix is “fun” and Fawkes and Stewart deliver that in abundance. The band is over-the-top awesome and the kind of girls who – while possessing no explicit super-powers – don’t have any qualms about going fist-to-mandible with a colony of monster ants.
That said, the girls themselves are fantastic and have wonderful, clearly defined personalities. Mandy is the guitarist and bandleader. The whole band is tough, but Mandy is the fearless action-hero, She’s always the first into a fight and the last woman standing.
I’m tempted to continue the Josie comparison and call Dot the Melodie of the group, but though she is blonde, carefree, and the most “girly,” she’s not especially ditzy. You can’t help but love Dot and her optimism. She’s the only one who’ll happily eat from the two-thousandth can of peaches the girls have opened when the other two would rather have anything else.
Meg (short for Megumi) is the drummer. She’s the most serious of the bunch, but that’s because her entire country was obliterated in the nuclear destruction. As far as she knows, she’s the last Japanese person alive. Not that she’s especially dour or anything. She loves the band and the adventure as much as the other two. She’s a little quicker to complain, but it’s always with a smirk. She’s got a great, dry sense of humor. I’m pretty much in love with her.
My only complaint about the book is that Meg only speaks Japanese and always gets first a Japanese word balloon, then a caption box with the English translation. I kept looking at the Japanese first and that slowed me down, but eventually I learned to ignore that and just read the captions. Still, I wonder if maybe there’s not a less distracting way of getting across that she’s speaking another language.
Stewart’s illustrations enhance Fawkes’ strong characterization. Mandy always looks extremely confident. Dot is forever wide-eyed, whether from fear or excitement. Meg is permanently cool. But it’s also Stewart’s drawings that give the book its humor and excitement. I mean, the dialogue is funny, but Stewart has to deliver the gags with body language and facial expressions and he does it perfectly. His action sequences are also powerful and excellently choreographed.
I also need to say that this is one of the few music-themed comics I’ve read where the lack of actual music to listen to didn’t get in my way. Usually, I see an image of a band onstage and read some lyrics and I’m left with the disappointing truth that this isn’t a real band and I’ve got no idea if I’d actually like their music a lot. That’s not the case with the Apocalipstix. Whether it’s the energy assault that Stewart gives their performances or just that he and Fawkes have fully convinced me that these fan-freaking-tastic girls really are the greatest rock band in the world, I was able to sit in my otherwise silent room and rock out to the music this comic put into my head.
Five out of five mutant rock concerts.