Written by Ray Fawkes, art by Cameron Stewart
Here’s an object lesson in marketing: 90% of my reason for buying The Apocalipstix was the title, because even if it isn’t an Invisibles reference, it’s a bloody cool title. Unfortunately, the content of the book doesn’t quite measure up.
The premise is one of those high-concept “X meets Y” ideas that sounds perfect when you pitch it: a three-woman rock band travels through a post-apocalyptic America, fighting mutants and pirates and eating canned peaches. That’s a bullet-proof idea, right? I mean, it practically writes itself, right?
Up to a point, Lord Copper. The Apocalipstix has a lot of verve and style, and Cameron Stewart’s art is gloriously kinetic – it looks like he had a lot of fun drawing it, and for a while that fun rubs off on the reader. Until, that is, the reader spots the one glaring flaw that brings enjoyment screeching to a halt: Ray Fawkes has neglected to include a plot.
(even after the apocalypse you still have to worry about ants ruining your picnic in Apolcalipstix, story by Ray Fawkes, art by Cameron Stewart, published Oni)
That’s a little harsh, but honestly: this first volume has three chapters with no connection to each other whatsoever, other than the main characters and the setting being the same in each one. The first two chapters don’t even feature the kind of plot that would be satisfying in a short story: in the first one, the Apocalipstix fight some pirates. In the second chapter, the Apocalipstix fight some giant ants. In neither case is there a plot; there’s just a bunch of stuff happening, with no sense of conflict or progression or suspense. The characters are so one-dimensional that it’s impossible to care about them, and the order of events makes it impossible to doubt how things are going to turn out.
In the third chapter, there’s a real plot, which is welcome, and one of the Apocalipstix even acquires a second dimension; but it’s too little, too late, and the attempt to make the scarcity of fuel a cornerstone of the chapter is laughable, considering the chapter is about a rock’n’roll battle of the bands. Call me a nitpicking killjoy if you like, but if fuel is so scarce, how are they powering their instruments? Those guitars don’t look acoustic to me. This little inconsistency, the bizarre mutations, and the fact that a ridiculous number of rock musicians seem to have survived the apocalypse combine to give the impression that Fawkes didn’t put much thought, if any, into how his setting was supposed to work. I’m a world-building wonk, so I’ll freely admit that things like this bother me more than most people; but even I could happily enjoy a completely kitchen-sink post-apocalypse world, with giant ants and marauding bandits and whatever else you care to mention, if the writer didn’t then expect me to take the setting seriously enough to care about Megumi meeting another Japanese person when she’d assumed she was the last one on Earth. The crazier your setting, the crazier your storytelling needs to be to keep up, but Fawkes doesn’t actually do much with the standard tropes of the post-apocalyptic story, other than toss them all in the pot and stir.
(the end of the world may have come and gone but there’s still time for some rock’n’roll in Apocalipstix by Ray Fawkes, art by Cameron Stewart)
It’s a shame, it really is, because Cameron Stewart’s art is terrific to look at, and the fight scenes are good fun, and The Apocalipstix does have some of the ingredients for a great story; but the end product comes across as half-baked. If you’ve been craving more Cameron Stewart art ever since the last issue of The Other Side, The Apocalipstix isn’t a bad way to get your fix; but if you want a story, you won’t find one here.
Katherine Farmar writes regularly on comics and culture from around the world, you can read more on her comics blog Whereof One Can Speak.