The Middle Ground #107 | Double-whammied
My first thought upon realizing that I hadn’t written here about Double Barrel was something along the lines of embarrassment, followed by excitement at having another venue in which I can tell you all to go and buy the thing, because it’s downright wonderful (anyone who follows me on Twitter will have seen me talking it up last week). If you take one thing away from this week’s column, let it be that Double Barrel is downright wonderful.
I was, I admit, pretty much in the tank for the project before I’d even had a chance to read the first issue. Not only was I knocked out by Kevin Cannon’s Far Arden — I wrote about it here, for those of you with memories as short as mine — but the format of the project alone felt like something to applaud, and take note of. Double Barrel, you see, is a monthly digital anthology of variable page count that serializes two black-and-white graphic novels — Crater XV, Cannon’s sequel to Far Arden, and Heck, a supernatural mystery of disappointments and familial dramas by Zander Cannon (no relation to Kevin, but now you get the pun in the “Double Barrel” title … two Cannons, see?) — along with additional material, all for just $1.99 each issue. The first issue, especially, goes all-out to impress you with its value for money: For your two-bucks-in-all-but-name, you get a full 122 pages, which easily eclipses the new norm of $2.99 for 20 pages and a cover. From that alone, I’m at the point of “How can you resist?” but there is, of course, more.
Namely, there are the comics themselves. I knew I’d enjoy Crater XV, because … well, I’m a sucker for Kevin C’s Army Shanks character and the world he inhabits already, and I’d been eagerly awaiting a sequel since finishing the original book. It’s everything I’d hoped, that mix of strangeness, sincerity and … snark’s not the right word, but there’s a self-aware humor at play that manages to hold everything together without ever becoming mean, if that makes sense. It is, like its predecessor, entirely winning and the kind of thing you read that’ll make you fall in love with comics all over again. Heck is easily as good, if simultaneously more straightforward and more filled with storytelling swerves; the story of a washed-up high-school football player who finds a gateway to Hell and then decides to … well, use it. Zander C’s writing is smart and just the right level of disturbing – What happens to Heck’s sycophantic former fan is both funny and messed up — and his art has a beautifully ugly quality to it, if that makes sense; it may be an acquired taste, but it’s one that I acquired quickly and don’t doubt others will, as well. The bigger surprise of the two lead strips in the series, for me, I suspect that Heck might also end up being the bigger draw of Double Barrel for many.
I’d been… not entirely resistant, but suspicious of digital comics and webcomics, in the past; there were those I liked (and those I loved), but overall I had an attitude that might best be described as something along the lines of “Well, I don’t know, I like this ‘paper’ thing we’ve had going on for years now, do I really have to change…?” Things like Double Barrel – and Mark Waid’s Thrillbent, for that matter – are slowly breaking down the prejudice, by offering me things that I want to read so much that it’s worth jumping through the hoops that’ve kept me away from all manner of digital reprints in the past. Turns out, it was all about just making good comics all along…! Who could’ve seen that coming, he says, hoping the sarcasm is self-evident …
Double Barrel #1 is available now from all manner of digital outlets. If you want to find out more (or just have some good reading), the comic’s website is worth checking out.