Reviews: Never mind the bollocks… Punk’s Not Dead

Published On February 27, 2018 | By Joe Gordon | Comics, Reviews

Punk’s Not Dead #1,

David Barnett, Martin Simmonds, Aditya Bidikar, Dee Cunniffe,

Black Crown/IDW Publishing

(cover artwork by Bill Sienkiewicz)

I am just old enough to remember punk, but also be a bit too young to really have totally understood it or gotten into it at the time. By the time I was a teen and more into music in a serious way it had been and gone, like a snot-covered shooting star. But I knew it was good right away – teachers, church ministers, parents, they all hated it with a vengeance. And as a kid you know that means something is bloody great, let’s be honest! And as the old saying and indeed the title of this series says “Punk’s Not Dead”. Which is true in some way as that punk ethic, that anyone, even working-class kids from some back-end estate who thought they could never do anything could if they wanted to, and that DIY punk approach from recording the music yourself to the hand-made fashion statements and designing and printing your own fliers, posters and fanzines, that’s all fed into the popular culture since then, in music and many other artforms. That punk DNA is still in there…

When we meet Feargal Ferguson – Fergie – he’s undergoing one of those most wretched of high school rituals, having to fight the school bully who is much bigger than him, while instead of being upset at this his classmate cheers on, baying for blood like vicious little tykes, “fight, fight, fight!”. But who is the unhealthily-coloured, slim figure in black whispering in Fergie’s ear that nobody else can see? It’s only the ghost of Sid Vicious…

I’ll be honest, I picked up this first issue of Barnett and Simmonds’ comic largely because I heard it featured the ghost of the famous/infamous punk and I though yeah, I pretty much need to have a look at this. I liked that idea so picked it up, only to find that yes, it was indeed a nice idea, but it was even smarter and funnier than I had thought it might be, not to mention delightfully cheeky in places. Fergie and his mum make a living pretending to be other people with serious problems for the pulp media and talk shows, and it is returning from one such TV recording as “troubled mother and son” that Fergie sees the spectral Sid Vicious walk through the wall of the gent’s look in Heathrow Airport.

Sid is invisible to all, stuck in this location, unable to leave the airport, so he amuses himself as best he can, leering invisibly over a balding, middle-aged business traveller in the loo “you ain’t half got a little tiddler!” and commenting on other travellers. Until he realises Fergie can see him, and Fergie realises that nobody else around him can see Sid, they think he is talking to himself. Sid is, understandably, relieved to have someone to chat to even for a brief time. When asked how he came to haunt an airport instead of a recording studio “rattling a chain made of safety pins”, he explains after he died in New York his mother brought back his ashes, but tripped walking through the airport, spilling the urn’s contents, which were sucked into the airport’s ventilation system (depicted in a manner taht reminded me of those cool Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service covers), and here he is, stuck for forty years… Bidding Fergie goodbye both are somewhat taken aback when Sid later appears in his airplane home – it seems somehow they’ve become connected and Sid is being drawn along with Fergie.

Added to this story of a ghostly punk rocker and an isolated young lad with a somewhat dodgy mother is a second story arc involving an older lady clad in oh-so-chic 60s gear (including MOD earrings) that could have come right out of Diana Rigg’s wardrobe in the Avengers, Dorothy Culpepper. Dorothy works for the Department of Extra-Usual Affairs, a secret section of the intelligence services that deals with peculiar threats such as demonic entities in Downing Street (which she wraps up in a pair of very expensive, designer leather trousers, in a nice nod to the pricey fashion choices of the current PM). Think a bit like the Laundry in Charlie Stross’s excellent novels, except with a 60s style. Culpepper has an inkling that there is a growing extra-normal threat coming to the UK and it involves music somehow, so it seems these two story arcs are destined to intersect at some point…

I laughed out loud at a lot of this, it has a suitably cheeky humour to it that I just loved. And as you might expect musical references abound – Sid following Fergie home and rummaging through his mum’s LPs and CDs in that way many folks do (almost a ritual, checking out someone’s bookshelves and their record rack, something you can’t do with digital), or the abums strewn around Fergie’s bedroom. The idea of not just a punk ghost but one trapped in one of the busiest airports in the world because of a ventillation system accident is wonderfully silly, and the quips like how Sid should be rattling chains like a traditional ghost, except his would be made of safety pins, made me giggle, or Sid mooning his spectral bum at oblivious travellers and commenting “talk about pretty vacant…”.

Simmonds’ art shows a nice progression from the first appearance of Sid, understandably looking pretty down in the dumps and miserable after forty years on his own, stuck in this limbo, to suddenly brightening, face smiling, happy at the sudden revelation he has escaped that place and is going with Fergie, with someone he can interact with, and the art subtly conveys this in the facial expressions. Even the idea of having his ghost trapped in Heathrow is quite clever – airports aren’t destinations, they are no-place, really, just stops on the way to somewhere else, eventually, so serves rather well as an earth-bound limbo for Sid. And I loved Simmonds’ 60s chic designs for Culpepper (surely someone still so Mod decades on is really, really going to hate all Sid’s musical era represented?!).

Funny, cheeky, packed with music references and with a nice supernatural story developing alongside a growing buddy-relationship tale, this was huge fun, with a bit of a Grant Morrison-era Doom Patrol vibe to it in spots. Looking forward to the next issue…

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About The Author

Joe Gordon

Joe Gordon is ForbiddenPlanet.co.uk’s chief blogger, which he set up in 2005. Previously, he was professional bookseller for over 12 years as well as a lifelong reader and reviewer, especially of comics and science fiction works.

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