"Bust #2" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Insane Comics
Written by Dave Cook
Illustrated by Chris O'Toole
2015, 40 Pages
Ten years after liberating the city of Austin from a harsh dictator and subsequently running it into the ground, former card hustler Jack is roaming the dystopian wasteland once called the United States of America. He's not alone and there are many that want him dead. Unfortunately for them, Jack has become rather adept at surviving, although he's a broken man as a result of everything he's been through, most notably being forced to murder his mutated wife and child in a gladiatorial arena.
Jack's character development is the shining light – or depressing darkness – at the center of Bust. On the outside, he looks like a grizzled old warrior capable of taking down any mutant or scavenger that gets in his way. We see an intimate moment he shares with a prostitute early in this issue. It's not sexual. Instead, he asks permission to call her by his wife's name. It's sweet and more than a little heartbreaking. Despite what he's been through living on the land for the past decade, he's still suffering from the tragic loss of his family.
As with zombie stories (which Bust is most definitely NOT), the real danger is not from the plague-ridden monsters, but the other survivors. There's a roving gang called the Smilers, led by a scarred madman clad in a clown-like mask. All these smiles are a stark contrast to the violence they perform on their victims. If the Insane Clown Posse fans ever got organized, this could be what they'd turn into in a post-apocalyptic world.
Chris O'Toole's character designs capture the essence of dystopia. You can almost feel the sand getting into their clothes as it whips across the deserts. Their skin appears rough and dry from years of exposure to the elements. Where O'Toole really excels are on the shots of the outside world. There's something beautiful about a wasteland with a battered city in the background and a lone motorcycle speeding away with a cloud of dust forming behind it.
The first issue of Bust suffers from too much packed into a single chapter. This is a bit better, although it's heavy on the dialogue. Every character explains their actions in great detail, like they're all vying for the role of Head Bond Villain. It feels like a video game in this manner. New characters casually drop their entire life story in conversation like it's nothing. There's a lot to go over between the introduction of the Smilers and bringing in the FBI and the government, so much has to be explained, however it comes through as a little clunky.
Bust is a post-apocalyptic story running at a million miles an hour. It takes a hard turn into Mad Max territory with this issue. Although it's rather exposition heavy, the character work stands out, pulling you in to Jack's life.