"Bust #1" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Card Shark Comics
Written by Dave Cook
Illustrated by Chris O'Toole
2014, 36 Pages
Judging from the sheer volume of post-apocalyptic stories out there, it's really only a matter of time before we destroy the world, right? Bust is another in a long line of dystopian futures. This one features a version where a deadly plague has ravaged the United States. Survivors are fighting tooth and nail to survive. Former card dealer Jack and his family have found some semblance of peace within the walls of Austin, Texas. This is only temporary though, as soon Jack is forced into gladiatorial combat if he ever wants to see his family alive again. We're really only one big viral outbreak away from Mad Max.
Bust opens with Jack already in the arena. He's been hardened by countless battles for his life and those of his loved ones. He's in incredible shape, but there's a coldness to his eyes, as if he's on auto-pilot, slicing and dicing his way through mutants to put him one step closer to reuniting with his family. These shots give you a great idea of the tone of the story, however some of the characters come off as very stiff or awkward. It's like they're posing instead of walking or fighting. This gets better as the issue progresses.
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There is a great shot early on when the infected folks are released from their pen that really showcases artist Chris O'Toole's talents. It's a half-page panel with five mutants rampaging forward. Each is different, but they're all terrifying. The way it's drawn, it looks like they're coming right at the reader. One of them has a hook for a hand, which sprouted so many questions in my mind. Did the guy have the hook before or after he was infected? If it was after, who put it on there? Was he a pirate?
After establishing the rough idea of the world, Bust jumps back a bit to fill in the gaps as to how Jack got to this point. This is where some problems arise. There are elements that are fleshed out that don't appear all that necessary and others that are rushed through that should have had more time spent with them. For example, Jack befriends a guy named Luis at Austin who hooks him up with the job at the casino which gets him involved in the mob and ultimately leads to the arena. When you look at Luis' involvement, he could be removed entirely without affecting the story at all.
On the other end of the spectrum, there is a revolution within the town which happens over just three panels. This is a huge status quo changer and it's glossed over like it's nothing. These stop-and-start moments affect the pace of the story. Things rush forward and then stop immediately to introduce someone or provide more exposition. It could be smoothed out a bit more.
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Bust has some great emotional beats to it, especially halfway through when the second round of Jack's battle begins. I had a guess as to where writer Dave Cook was going and I was shocked to find I was right. It's a brutal move and has an interesting effect on both Jack as well as the audience cheering him on. It could have gone a bit deeper and changed the final pages of the story, mostly to do with the aforementioned revolution.
Bust has several great elements to it that will pull you in. You'll want to find out what this plague was and how it came about, plus more about Jack and how he's carving a life out in this post-apocalyptic world. There's a lot crammed into this first issue that could be a bit more streamlined for story purposes. I'm curious where Cook and O'Toole will take the series next.