“Energy Fizzing Off Every Page”: Early-Bird Review Of Donny Cates & Ian Bederman’s Atomahawk #0

by Oliver MacNamee

Picking this up blindly without even the slightest background checks, I was immediately reminded by Ian Bederman’s artwork of those old school tattoos people of a certain generation have, but with more than a splash of Jack Kirby influencing these designs too.

Tattoos that are making something of a comeback too, if the hipsters in my local bar are any kind of litmus test to go by. So, when I did reach the informative interview at the back of this action-paced gonzo comic in which our hero–an amalgamation of the best and the cheesiest of barbarians from pulp fiction, fanzines and the silver screen–I was happy to be right on the money with recognising this style to be something different, yet familiar, to your average comic book reader.

Turns out not only is Bederman a rather adept tattoo artist in his own right, but has had a ton of mad, bad, over-the-top characters running through his mind for some time. And, with the sensibilities and aesthetics of a tattooist approaching a very different canvas and medium I was surprised at how well it worked. Although, the madcap bloody stories included in this oversized issue suit the style. Each page is off-white, to suggest a story inked directly onto skin, and the colours are also those delicate blends you see on tattoos. Even reading it on a screen, it’s very effective. And, it certainly makes for some very creative and energetic page layouts too.

This is a simple story of a cybernetic barbarian warrior inextricably linked to the eponymous Tomahawk, which has transformed our hero into some kind of cybernetic warrior with an appetite for destruction and a world both fantastical and scientifically amazing too. If anything, the crisp speech balloons and narrative boxes are slightly jarring when laid upon this kind of artwork with it’s more delicate colours and colour blends.

The script is as equally bombastic as the assorted characters and the hyperbolic language and prose adopted by Donny Cates is a recall back to the writings of Robert E Howard in his Conan tales, as well as being something of a wink, along with the reader, to this style of writing and the odd moment of humour thrown in for good measure too. This is a comic that clearly knows it shouldn’t be taken seriously, but it’s a great comic because of this. A comic Cates and Bederman clearly had fun producing, with energy fizzing off every page.

Along with the interview of Bederman, there are photographic references to the tattoo work of Bederman breaking up the different short stories in this bumper issue, to show not only how many characters he has created even before this comic was an embryonic idea, but just how many people are now walking around with his particular style of tattoo. Like the comic, these designs are a fusion of traditional tattoo aesthetics but with a hip, modern twist and a tenner of the science fiction thrown in for good measure. And, I dare say, something very different to what you currently have on your pull list. Maybe worth picking up a copy?

Tomahawk #0 is out this week from Image Comics priced at $5.99