Review: Bastard’s Waltz TPB Vol 1

Age creeps up on all of us, and evil vicious superhero terrorist and overall bad guy John the Bastard is no exception.  Fearing his own mortality and the fallout from upsetting everyone including some pretty awful villain types, he lands at the door of protection special agent Ezekiel Sweet.  Still, in this particular waltz, as the story progresses, it’s not always clear who brought whom to the dance.

This book is a collection of the four issue run from Darby Pop Publishing, who have been putting out some strong books over the last year.  As a publisher, they have strived to keep their audience on their toes with a range of differing books, each one delivering a high standard of quality.

The book works on various levels, due to the clever writing of Mark Bertolini, who showcases a thoroughly non-apologetic character, that despite being true to his name, engenders change in how the reader perceives him.  John the Bastard is someone to hate and dislike; that’s a given.  But as you read the book, you may fined that your feelings towards him change.  Yes, he is the bad guy, but there is something safe in having a character described as John who acts as you would expect.  Bertolini weaves the various emotional strands, hinting at the deaths of many a mainstream archetype such as a super powered alien, the space cop and the detective.  The other constant is Agent Sweet, who is as focussed on his saving John as much as John is as focussed on, well, killing everyone whilst trying to get out of the business.

The book features the unique art of Giovanni Guida who possesses a scratchy style that appears disjointed on first glance.  Yet do not let the apparent roughness of the work put you off; there is a strong sense of storytelling on show.  Creators can have a level of affinity for their characters and their creating partners.  In that regard, Guida certainly fits the bill.  It’s hard to see the book, full of dark humour and recognisable tropes in the hands of another artist.  Fans of Klaus Janson pencils, in books like the Gothic storyline in Legends of the Dark Knight, should see enough similarities to start enjoying the work, before realising that there is a different level of edginess in play.  The lack of detailed backgrounds; often a simple color is used; help to keep the focus on the characters.

With the series already three issues deep, the release of the trade paperback prior to the final issue hitting the stands is an opportunity to quench your curiosity as too how the series ends.  Between the talents of Mark Bertolini and Giovanni Guida, conducting the actions of John and Ezekiel Sweet, the two appear destined to continue their dance, even it’s not strictly ballroom.

Writing – 4.5 Stars
Art – 5 Stars

Written by; Mark Bertolini
Art by; Giovanni Guida
Published by; Darby Pop Publishing

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