In Review – ‘Bubblegum Maelstrom #1’ by Ryan Alves.

Bubblegum Maelstrom issue #1

Created by Ryan Alves.

Published by AWE Comics.

$12 – Full Colour – US Comic Size.

About – ‘The first issue in a one man comics anthology by Ryan Alves. Forty pages, 6 stories, full color.(Suggested for adults).’ Available from the AWE Comics Store here. You can also find the creator at his website here.

The Cover – This rather out of the ordinary cover is a cracking symbolic preparation you’ll need for the strangeness contained inside the first issue. A phallically coloured snake with saucer like green eyes and goofy fangs watches from the long grass. All the while wearing what looks like a cross between a hat your trophy wife would wear to Ladies Day at Ascot and a cake you’d watch being made on a prime time BBC reality show. It is coloured in way that you also see inside with bright water colours. The title of the comic could have done with a bit more pizzazz for my tastes but that is only a small quibble.

The Review – The interiors didn’t let this particular reader down. The first of the short stories is about a twisted version of The Garden of Eden. The panel progression goes from an apple being picked, an apple being bitten into and a shot of an erection during said meal. Sharing this biblical garden is a dark-red skinned, wide-headed, horned and grinning demon/devil/The Devil. Eventually God makes a pompous and bossy appearance and something happens that was a little bit of a surprise. It’s been about forty years since I read The Book of Genesis but an addition of Ryan’s plot twist may even have made this troublesome altar boy pay more attention back in the day. Dongs, Devils and the Almighty have me hooked!

Whilst the majority of the stories in this first issue are silent/wordless the second story does make use of unorthodox commentary. ‘Geres’ is six pages long and drawn with a black and white and dirty purple palette. Like much of Bubblegum Maelstrom it has a beautifully nightmarish quality. A desperate dash of a faceless being across a pulsating industrial yet organic landscape. Full of mutants and shadows and throbbing creeping blackened and diseased flesh. It is a transgressive feast for the eyes and the imagination. Ever overlaid is a narration that transverses the mood of the piece. The words crisscross what you think you are watching by talking often about the everyday city features of Churches, galleries, cars, kitchen sinks and even the titular but still unexpected Richard Gere! But then you realise that there are elements of the words being not just metaphors but also curiously literal. The panels are also more densely packed into the pages with this story. I’d have loved to see them on a bigger scale, maybe at A4.

Other stories feature Batman deciding to add a confusing extra moustache to his disguise, an alien searching for water, a sci-fi western and how a prehistoric bird shitting on someone from flight may have caused an ecological disaster! The last page of the comic leaves you with the following advive.

Chewing away but the grind yields no reward. Why? Comfort? Exercise? Be it neither or both no one escapes the maelstrom!’

I came across this book through a happy little accident whilst trawling the comics edges of Instagram well away from the banality of yoga pants, cosplay and happier times. I was looking for something different by an new artist and came across the work of Ryan.

This is a really interesting anthology/collection of stories by Ryan. He was kind enough to add a zine called ‘Moments with Mo Peaches’ into the package, along with some stickers and a sketch/note that thanked me and that I was one of his first international orders. The stories are short, punchy and unexpected. They show a wild antiestablishment vibe and have an outlaw quality. They take chances and that’s something I always welcome. The price at $12 feels a little high and this may be explained by the high quality paper used. I expect that something with more of a newsprint stock would keep costs down a little, especially when I’m ordering from the UK and postage woes here at the moment.

Ryan’s art takes different and stylistically interesting approaches. The more opened up panels of the first and last stories for example compared to the more detailed and stacked/crammed panels of ‘Geres’ means you don’t always know what to expect. Some of his art reminded me a little of a looser Mark Stafford page, especially in the use of colour? I’ll be following to see when the next issue lands and so should you.

Recommended.

Links are at the top of the page but I thought that I would add this image as it appears when you click on the ‘Contact Page‘ of his website. A more ‘Twitter User’ image you couldn’t hope to find!

Many thanks for reading.

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