The End Times of Bram and Ben #2
Firstly, this cover by J.A.W. Cooper is one of my favorites that I have seen this year, perhaps ever. This will be tattooed on some guy’s shoulder within a month, and I would totally give him my phone number. It’s striking, simultaneously complex and simple, ornate and clean; this image and its structure concocted and executed by Cooper is expressive, engaging and narrative. I cannot stop looking at it.
Hours later when I was able to turn the page I discovered that this book is every bit as well-paced, irreverent, and clever as I remembered it. The story continues to have near-perfect momentum as the issue firmly establishes the roles that both Bram and Ben will play in the apocalypse. Ben will champion the forces of good, while Bram will be a poster-child for the forces of evil-ish (all sources indicate that the devil himself is far worse than Bram could ever hope to be) as a third party candidate for the future of humanity. The story-telling style and rhythm of this series are so perfect that I wish it were ongoing. Asmus and Festante manage to make the action in this series easy to grasp despite the high-concept nature of the book.
Rem Broo’s art does as much to perpetuate the comedic tone of the book as the dialogue written by Asmus and Festante, which is spot-on sarcastic and thoroughly modern. Despite the simplified and stylized nature of the art, details and expressions are still evident and easily observed. The only qualm I had with the entire book was the coloring in the double page spread of Hell was a little monotone. I think this was actually a biproduct of a feature of the book that I really liked. The color scheme is consistently used to characterize good and evil (red or black-evil; white or blue-good). This could get trope-y, but its done with just the right economy to serve as a reminder of the polarity represented by the two forces at play. And let’s face it, this last page is a poster waiting to be hung on someone’s dorm room wall.
This issue definitely accomplishes a lot; it firmly establishes the conflict in the series, and makes me curious about what will become of our unwitting protagonists. I am amazed how something so playful and genuinely joyous can take on reconciling modern life with ancient mythology, and not feel as if it is collapsing under the weight of the task. This series is an incredible achievement.