Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #72 by Drew Barth

Ludoctratic Dissidents

I would like to, if I may, talk about the absurd. There is much in comics that can be considered absurd: sun-powered aliens, living trash, a gang leader who might be a crocodile, etc. We’ve become accustomed to oddity at its highest level—our suspension of disbelief has gone from suspended to outright expelled. These things don’t hinder our enjoyment. Having a pure stream of the ludicrous shot straight into our lives like a Harpo Marxian bottle of seltzer is always appreciated. As such, we must appreciate what Kieron Gillen, Jim Rossignol, Jeff Stokely, Tamra Bonvillain, and Clayton Cowles have provided us with their work in The Ludocrats.

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The story of the Aristocrats of the Ludicrous has already had its own absurd kind of history. Gillen himself has talked about developing The Ludocrat swith Rossignol at length in his newsletter and how the kernel of the story started as far back as 2003 with the eventual series announcement happening in 2015. This would lead to a solicitation for the first issue in 2018, which came and went. Many things happened in the interim, but finally, after rumors and whispers, the first physical issue of The Ludocrat swas confirmed to be released on April 1st, 2020—this turned out to also be the first week Diamond Distributors would not be shipping comics due to COVID-19. But, this past Wednesday, May the 20th, 2020, we could finally behold the this ludicrous work that we have been craving for so long.

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How is the first issue of The Ludocrats? It’s a story by Kieron Gillen and Jim Rossignol with Jeff Stokely on art, Tamra Bonvillain on colors, and Clayton Cowles on letters, so it’s going to be the best kind of fucking absurd. We begin with a blood-soaked and naked Baron Otto Von Subertan on the day a wedding is taking place in his own home while his confidant, Professor Hades Zero-K, attempts to get him to dress in something other than blood. This continual frenetic propulsion through the wedding into the reception into a massive fight is the driving energy that maintains this book. These Ludocrats revolt against the very idea of normalcy, highlighted with a wedding day decapitation, to the point that stopping to breathe may be a mortal sin. Stokely and Bonvillain’s art gives every page this electric feeling that reinforces the idea of absurdity—from the half-train Steam-Judge Grattinia Gavelstein to Casanova Quinn hidden inside a sexy dinosaur—nothing here looks or feels like any comic that’s come before it.

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The Ludocrats is pure absurd, ludicrous energy and it is exactly what we needed during this quarantine and as the start of comics returning to shops. The pure joy of comics screams across each page; the love that comes from creating a world and work such as this is a physical thing in your hands that can be felt. I’ve been reading Gillen’s work since Phonogram: The Singles Club and to finally have The Ludocrats in my hand feels like touching a piece of that joy that comes from creating these comics.

Get excited. Get ludicrous.


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Drew Barth (Episode 331) is a writer residing in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.