Multiple Warheads is the Brandon Grahamsiest of Image’s Brandon Graham comics
Yesterday Image Comics released two new books by Brandon Graham.
One was Prophet #30, the latest issue of the critically acclaimed sci-fi/fantasy series based on a resuscitated and reimagined Rob Liefeld-created property. Graham writes Prophet, and only very occasionally draws parts of it, while the lion’s share of the illustration duties has fallen to a rotating cast of talented artists, including Simon Roy, Farel Dalrymple and Giannis Milonogiannis. Despite that it’s not all his in the way most of his other comics work has been, it has brought a lot of attention to the talented young creator, and kept his name and work in the reading audience’s mind in a way more occasionally published graphic novels just can’t do.
The other book was Multiple Warheads: Alphabet to Infinity #1, which is both written and drawn by Graham, and isn’t based on a Rob Liefeld-created property. This one is all Graham’s and, in that respect, is probably a better example of what the next work from the guy who did King City is – it’s Graham’s latest comics work, and his truest follow up to King City.
But the characters, their world and their story have been around for quite a while now, traveling on an orbit that takes them from inside Graham’s mind and imagination out into the public eye, and back again; while the lines on these pages might be newer, aspects of Multiple Warheads pre-dates Graham’s Prophet work and at least large chunks of his King City.
Multiple Warheads is the story of sexy organ smuggler Sexica and her kinda-sorta werewolf boyfriend Nikolai, and its setting is a Grahamian future world largely inspired by a post-apocalyptic Russia, had the apocalypse happened at the height of the Cold War. I first encountered the characters in a short story in the 2005 Alternative Comics anthology of Graham’s work, Escalator; but I understand they were introduced even further back, in one of Graham’s earlier porn works. It goes unmentioned in Alphabet to Infinity, but the title Multiple Warheads comes from Sexica sewing a smuggled wolf penis onto Nikolai, giving him a multiple penises, and some unique side-effects. A few years after Escalator, Oni Press published a Multiple Warheads one-shot that offered the most expansive exploration of the characters and their deal yet.
So they’ve been around a good seven years already, and that longevity no doubt informed one of the best aspects of this first issue, an aspect regular readers of Graham’s work will recognize — as whimsical and fantastical as his worlds might be, they’re always properly broken-in, feeling as lived-in and comfortable as your own world, and as fully realized, from the signs and graffiti on the walls to the names and natures of the foods and drugs.
It’s one of the many ways in which Alphabet to Infinity will seem familiar to readers of either of Graham’s previous Image series, as will the constant visual and verbal puns, the awesome throwaway ideas built into the narrative and the way Graham synthesizes pop culture tropes from various countries into something that is at once recognizable and recognizably its own thing.
As the story begins, Sexica and Nikolai are on the road, continuing a trip they may have begun back in that 2007 one-shot (five years is a long time for me to remember plot details from; besides, I’ve spent much of the last few years trying to forget 2000-2008). Meanwhile, a bad-ass lady who looks a lot like a man is riding around on her living motorcycle, forcibly harvesting organs with her bad-ass sword and some sound-activated super-seeds. Smart money says their paths intersect next issue.
Here’s hoping this miniseries and all the folks who dig Graham’s Prophet intersect just as soon, if not sooner — though the tone is lighter, this book features the same anything-can-happen sense of wonder, and is impeccably cartooned in Graham’s signature style that has grown to be derivative of nothing save for Graham’s work itself. That is, Brandon Graham draws like Brandon Graham, and no one else draws like Brandon Graham.