Review: Black Metal Omnibus

Story: Rick Spears
Art: Chuck BB
Publisher: Oni Press
Cover Price: $24.99
Release Date: October 1, 2014


All Hail! A most awesome and grim book, Black Metal Omnibus, is now available from Oni press. It is the saga of Shawn and Sam, the Brothers Stronghand. This latest release is the full collection of stories written and drawn by Rick Spears and Chuck BB, respectively.

Black Metal is the bastard child of black comedies and hard rock, combining the best lewd qualities of Beavis and Butthead with an augmented valley kid vernacular ala Bill and Ted. A most excellent and non-heinous pedigree to be sure.

The book is great at not taking itself too seriously, at first. The twins who look nothing a-like enroll at Ronald Reagan Junior High, a result of a never fully disclosed disciplinary issue at their old school. As with most junior high schools, the rumor mill begins to turn as kids try to figure out via various bits of conversation just who the Brothers Stronghand are and what they might’ve done to “get kicked out five schools in four years”.

Instead of developing the boys’ characters in relation to their new school mates ( with the notable exceptions of Travis and Becca), the creators chose to use “Raygun Jr.” as a background piece. While the book doesn’t suffer because of this, I think it would have been cool to see the brothers interact more with the student body. Perhaps in an animated series run on Adult Swim? I can dream can’t I?

About halfway through the omnibus, Black Metal starts to lose a little steam. The things that made the first half great, the self-deprecating humor, the tongue-in-cheek references to the metal subculture, all begin to fall away as Shawn and Sam venture further into the dark abyss of the mythic tale. Not that there aren’t still flashes of comedic brilliance, they’re just fewer and farther between 230-plus pages into the story.

I want to love this book very badly, because it really has the potential to be great. It has an interesting premise, likeable characters, funny dialogue, and wild action sequences. I just can’t get past how much the story shifts in tone from the beginning to the end. We go from something darkly humorous and satirical to a thing that is just plain dark and sort of scatter shot. That is, not only do the laughs become fainter, so too does the focus of the narrative. By the end there are forgotten deities judging the merit of contemporary religion…or something. I don’t know really, and that’s a big part of the problem.

The first half of the story feels like it was a set-up to get me invested and engaged with the characters before twisting them into something unrecognizable. Usually this means that you’re dealing with well-rounded creations; here though, I feel like the story and the characters lose dimensions as things get more melodramatic.

Chuck BB has said that he wanted to “…push for…brutality, the epic darkness…” that is so prevalent in Black Metal as a music genre with the story, so maybe this is the effect he was going for. If that’s the case then bravo, you nailed it Chuck.

If you do decide to pick this up, be warned, The Brothers Stronghand are neither for the humorless, the weak or for the faint of heart.

2 ½ /5 stars





By Adam Cadmon

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