Image Comics’ Buzzkill: A Sobering Look At Addiction, Power And The Grim Consequences Of Both

by Brendan M. Allen

“Ruben” is a superhero who derives his powers from abusing drugs and alcohol. After a mysterious superhero brawl that found Ruben imbibing so much that he blacked out, he awoke in the midst of a city he destroyed.He has no idea who he was fighting. He has no idea why he was fighting them. And he has had enough. Now, Ruben is in recovery and attempting to walk away from the destructive lifestyle that almost cost him and the citizens of his city their lives. But it won’t be easy for Ruben to get clean. As the city’s villains descend on him in his weakened state, Ruben faces the hardest decision of his life: DRINK, AND LIVE…OR STAY SOBER, AND DIE.

If you only read the solicit information for Buzzkill, you might get the wrong idea about how drug and alcohol use are portrayed in this book. The reality is, even though the anti-hero protagonist does indeed get his super abilities from drugs and alcohol, the grim consequences of substance abuse are also shown. Ruben’s real life is in shambles. His girlfriend left him, his best friend betrays him, and he has a horrible relationship with his father. He is desperately reaching out to every 12 step program he can find to put his life back together and set the drugs and alcohol aside. [*Editor’s note: In a book that originally appeared from Dark Horse Comics as a series and collection, the creators have released a new edition of what’s now a modern classic through Image Comics.]

Donny Cates and Mark Reznicek use frequent breaks to poke at mainstream superhero clichés and bring a little levity to a very dark, serious script. There’s a sense throughout the book that this “Ruben” guy is holding out on everyone. Through well-planned flashback sequences and brilliantly paced reveals, we get a vague sense of who Ruben is, but not a real clear picture until the very last sequence, when, holy crap, it all comes together.

Geoff Shaw’s art and Lauren Affe’s colors fit the tone perfectly. There’s this great combination of chaos and order, tight but loose, that these two collaborate brilliantly to deliver. There’s also this fun dynamic where the art and color evolve for the different periods in the story. In way, way back flashbacks, thick heavy lines and bright colors dominate, accented with Ben-Day dots, reminiscent of nineties common practices. For the more recent flashback sequences, the dots remain, but the linework gets scratchier. When we’re in storyline present, the bright colors and dots give way to dark, muted tones.

If you’re a fan of Donny Cates’ recent hit mini God Country with Geoff Shaw, you absolutely must pick up Buzzkill. It’s an innovative twist on the superhero genre, an honest and frank look at real people who happen to have super powers on top of their very real emotions, hang-ups, responsibilities, and problems.

Buzzkill TP, released by Image Comics, 27 September 2017. From writers Donny Cates (God Country, Ghost Fleet, Redneck) and Mark Reznicek (The Toadies), artist Geoff Shaw (God Country, The Paybacks) and colorist Lauren Affe (Ghost Fleet). Order using Diamond Code: JUL170737.

(Image will also be releasing Donny Cates’ The Ghost Fleet: The Whole Damned Thing on 29 November 2017. You can order it from your LCS using Diamond Code JUN178533.)

Brendan M. Allen

Brendan Allen has probably had more jobs than you would reasonably believe. Dog trainer? He’s done it. Flooring contractor? You bet! EMT? Army NBC specialist? Road dog for a Celtic rock band? Yes, yes, and och aye! Now he reads comics and writes about them. It’s a rough gig. You can follow Brendan on Twitter @SaintAmish where he mostly tweets about comic books and cystic fibrosis awareness.