Review – The Wildcard Chronicles

Brutal Street Racing and The Jokers Wild!

For many the term intellectual and comic book would be an oxymoron, The Wildcard Chronicles from Burning Spear Comix challenges that perception by beginning an interesting narrative which revolves around biker gangs with some vibrant mythological motifs and quotes by Goethe.  The narrative begins with a violent revolutionary act, a building explodes with the art showing all the intensity of the heat and liquid fire erupting through the concrete as in the backdrop impassive metal Pyramids glimmer in the night sky, in the panel below a stirring quotation from an as yet unknown figure points toward a struggle for mankind’s freedom and the opening panel becomes thick with the feeling of heady destiny.

So begins our journey into the world of The Joker’s Wild bike club, the writer John McAdams, it displays a passion not just for the heroes of the racing circuit, but also for a sense of purpose, a sense of pride and honour which seems to have been lost with the postmodern craze of the Anti-Hero. These are characters who have strong ties to ancestral history and to the ties of loyalty that membership within each gang.  The Wildcard Chronicles attempts to bring forward dynamic characters, who are in turns brash, loud and memorable.  

The Wildcard Chronicles cover by Barry McClain Jr
The Wildcard Chronicles cover by Barry McClain Jr

The art style pops out with bold and vibrant colours which instantly attract the readers attention, there’s something iconic and familiar with the design of the characters, reminiscent of Egyptian Priests with modernised clothing designs , characters hold staff weapons which are designed like the staffs of office held by Egyptian court officials, it’s a nod to the historical with advanced technological purpose. This contrasts with the Joker’s Wild Biker gang who are designed like the traditional ‘knights of the dusty road’ – reminiscent of a cross between Sons of Anarchy and Akira, the bike designs are unusual and give a sense of the character riding them, each choice in customisation showing a glimpse of the personality of each of the individuals being introduced here.

It’s also something of importance to note the strong female characterization here, they are not used as mere eye candy or have been relegated in the narrative as secondary characters used to enforce the male leads.  There’s an incredible sense of self-identification coming through with each character in this issue as well, I would postulate that the writers have put a lot of their own character and energy into developing each role in the comic.  The reinforces the authenticity of each character and brings a new dynamic to the action comic genre – we don’t merely see shootouts but it is possible to feel empathy with the owner of the finger pulling the trigger.

It’s also not afraid to pull any punches, Burning Spear understands the cinematic value of “Less is more”, an implied action projects a stronger image in the viewer/readers mind.  In one scene we have an execution scene, a pistol is placed to the head of a pleading informant and the panel focuses on the shiny barrel of the gun, it fills the scene with its sleek design, but we, the readers, we aren’t concentrating on that.  In our minds, we see the future victim of the merciless bullet ready to leave the chamber – we see him sweating and pleading and then potentially resigning to his fate.  In classic action movie style as the bullet enters his cranium, the figure holding the pistol utters a quip.

Within the first few pages we are introduced to the high stakes of the street, it’s a fairly wordy comic, there are few panels without speech bubbles or thought bubbles appearing, we do get a sense of the writer trying to pack as much exposition into this introduction as possible, and it works quite well.  The exposition is broken up by frequent action sequences, one of my favorites was a kidnapping which began when an assassination attempt from a rooftop goes awry and the sniper grapples across the panel to the street and lands on their waiting bike, ready to chase down the target.

There’s a competent writing style throughout the issue, but its main strength is definitely the art which accompanies it, some scenes initially look deceptively simple at first glance, but you will find yourself flicking backward and forwards through the comic to revisit some of the key scenes on offer here.  There’s an almost cell shading quality to the boldness, clear lines and bold vibrancy of the colors used.

I look forward to the next installment with anticipation to find out more about the Joker’s Wild gang and to discover the history behind the mysterious cloaked and hooded character who remains as memorable on the last page as he was from the first encounter at the beginning of the issue.

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