Swap out rock stars or punk gods or whatever honorific name we’re calling long dead, yet still revered musicians these days with superheroes, and you’ve got Punks Not Dead #1. Writer David Barnett and artist Martin Simmonds steep the story in the occult and espionage more so than punching and heat vision so fans of British pop culture icons (The highly overrated) Harry Potter and James Bond might find something to love in the new release from Shelly Bond’s Black Crown imprint.
Punks Not Dead is Ultimate Spider-Man only ruder and with more safety pins and leather jackets. The protagonist, Fergie, comes off as your typical white male everyman YA character with a perverse 2018 twist that he and his mom make their money by having fake arguments on the British equivalent of Maury Povich and Jerry Springer’s daytime shows, which gets them splashed all over the tabloids. In reality, Fergie is a thoughtful, withdrawn teen, who wants to know who is dad is. His fairly flat personality is just waiting to filled by the ghost Sid Vicious, who is a kind of archetype for punk rock itself and gets all the funny lines beginning when he plays a kind of supernatural corner man to Fergie in the beginning in the comic as he fights a school bully, Peter Parker vs Flash Thompson style. Simmonds colors Sid in jet black, and he is a shock of life to Fergie’s mundane meets modern reality star life. His most pivotal role in Punks Not Dead #1 is providing comic relief and playing music critic to Fergie’s mom’s record collection, but he also is an inspirational figure and is kind of sort of a Ghostbusters antagonist.
Technically, Simmonds’ art isn’t bad. He draws detailed character likenesses and makes strong storytelling decisions like zooming into Fergie’s face when he’s about to get popped by a bully or playing with panel layout angles when Fergie begins to realize that he’s talking to a ghost. However, his art is more early-1990s John Bolton Vertigo polished than dirty rotten punk rock with the exception of a red tinged flashback to a Sex Pistols gig in Preston, UK. The presentation is more 2018 remaster than raw live tracks. There could be story reasons for this as some say the Sex Pistols weren’t real punks, but a ruder, cruder boy band with Malcolm McLaren acting as a predecessor to Lou Pearlman. But, from what I’ve gathered from Punks Not Dead #1 (Especially the Barnett penned backmatter.), the book is about punk as an attitude and isn’t a thesis on authenticity or the genre or anything. It’s about the spirit of the movement, not the letter of the movement. There’s no quiz at the end: enjoy the ride and a big helping of underdog hero comfort food.
With this in mind, Punks Not Dead is a fairly funny mashup of the slice of life, urban fantasy, and espionage genres. I know I mentioned James Bond earlier, but the book is more like Ghostbusters with a drier British sense of humor and the paranormal bits playing backing bad to Fergie, this book’s real star and whose thoughts and fears are broadcast loudly through David Barnett’s narration. Martin Simmonds’ art is a bit too pretty for a punk book, but he joins the ranks of comic book artists who prove that painted art can work in both sequentials and covers.
Yeah, Punks Not Dead #1 is yet another white boy Hero’s Journey story, but David Barnett and Martin Simmond’s sense of humor, (obvious) punk sensibilities, and paranormal investigation/espionage elements spice up the usual recipe and make it a dish worth sampling even if you’re more of a post punk listener like me.
Story: David Barnett Art: Martin Simmonds
Story: 8.5 Art: 7.5 Overall: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy
IDW/Black Crown provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review