Sean Mackiewicz, Editor-in-Chief and the snarkier, smart assed respondent on almost every letters page published by the Image Comics distributed imprint, Skybound, steps out from behind the desk to present his first creator owned series: Gasolina.
Gasolina is what I call a “filling” story, where the reader is given enough story content where you feel satisfied and full after reading an issue. Providing an intriguing blend of crime thriller action, a good chunk of horror and a delicious slice of romance tossed in for good measure to sweeten the meal, Gasolina builds upon a simple premise that ramps up the intensity with every turn of the page.
The son (Quique) of the leader (Hector) of a small farming community in Mexico, comes up missing. To retrieve his son Hector enlists the aid of protagonists Randy, a doctor for their community, and his wife, the assassin, Amalia Moreno, who is Hector’s sister. It is their efforts to return Quique to his father that kick-off the series, but quickly you come to realize that this retrieval mission is just the tip of a boat barreling headlong into an iceberg of drug cartels and demon bugs.
The story is solidly entertaining, unfolding in a staccato fashion, hitting several quick beats that forward the story at a rapid clip. In the moments depicting action as the various factions face-off against one another, this storytelling short hand helps tremendously. It is in the quieter, low key moments where this style affects the pacing. Minimal information is conveyed and the feeling is that some moments would have been better served by allowing them to breathe a little bit. After for issues I don’t even recall the name of the primary antagonist even being revealed.
A success in itself is that Amalia is a badass while not being a bitch. Too many times writers, male and female alike, in an effort to show just how tough, big and bad their female protagonist is, the writers will portray them as an asshole. So much so that as a reader (or viewer: looking at you Buffy the Vampire Slayer) it becomes difficult to root for them or believe that others would willingly follow them. In Amalia, the creators have captured the essence of the hero of few words. Amalia shows far more than she tells, kicking butt while remaining compassionate. She has layers and different sides. A warmth and affection she displays to her husband, the aforementioned compassion when caring for her nephew, and an ice cold mean streak when facing down her enemies.
Her other half, Randy, is no slouch either. He is calmer and has a more level headed approach to situations. You understand why he is dedicated to his wife and see how he balances her. Their relationship makes sense. It is not perfect, but the love is evident.
Artist, Niko Walters, employs an illustrative style that creates a distinctive look for the book. Each of the character designs stands out as uniquely individual. Given that the cast is primarily people of color this is a wonderful thing. Far too often in comic works are the people of color given recognizable features that make them discernable from the next character. The only negative is that in a few instances action picks up causing some of the panels to suffer from unclear illustrations or from colorist, Mat Lopes’, use of colors that are so dark the art becomes almost indistinguishable. This creates events that unfold which aren’t always clear in the moment and sometimes difficult to interpret from the context.
The greatest strength of Gasolina is that it is a human drama which grounds all of the mind-bendingly creepy proceedings. This contrast really works to make the supernatural elements stand out sharply against the background of crime and violence. As every issue of the series unfolds all of your initial assumptions are subtly shifted from thinking that you have gotten onboard a comic focused on drug cartels and retribution, to not knowing exactly what the fuck you have just gotten yourself into…but damned if you don’t want to ride it out see where the story takes you!
Gasolina is engaging, moving at a frenetic pace that keeps you on your toes and turning pages. Cop this joint for your collection.
Gasolina issue #1 is out today!