Burnouts # 1 Is Absolutely Gorgeous But Vaporous In Plot

by Richard Bruton

Burnouts Issue 1 by Dennis Culver and Geoffo is one of those comics where absolutely everything you see and hear in advance, whether it’s the basic press blurb or the terrible cover, simply makes you think it’s going to be a really bad book.

BUT, but, but…even though the idea sounds cliched, the hook makes it even worse, and the cover…well, I’ll get to that in a bit, I still picked it up off the shelves just to have a look inside. And inside, it’s a magnificent, wonderful, beautiful thing.

Here’s page 1, panel 1… gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous…

I literally opened the comic up and stopped, my eye taking in every single line, every minimal little detail.

I don’t know whether it was the tree on the left, the two leaves floating from into left to right, the figure in the background made up of just four lines (six if you count the shopping bags), or whether it was the beautifully minimalist pale blue background… but, whatever it was, it had me from there. The interior artwork by Geoffo is just a magnificent, incredible, minimalist delight.

And if you don’t believe me, here’s page 1, panel 2…

Bit of the early Matt Wagner about that, maybe. The minimalist lines are perfection, but the composition of the panel is what makes it so good, the flow of the art from left to right; start bottom left with the short figure crouching and then let your eye be drawn across the panel, just as Geoffo intended, move up to the second youth, across to the third, follow the eye line, pushed on with the arm and across the speech bubble to the subject of the panel. And all the while, take in all that beautifully minimal detailing. If you’re a little like me and overly fond of this sort of minimalism (I really must get around to sharing my love of all things Simon Moreton with you), you’ve already seen and fallen in love with the brickwork (or lack thereof), and the greenery in the background (favourite bit, where the line just disappears and the colour does the work of delineating the grass/building boundary).

Or maybe it’s just me. But, all I know is that I spent at least five minutes running my eye over the four panels of page 1.

THAT’S why you should be picking up Burnouts: the perfectly beautiful minimal artwork from Geoffo continues like that throughout. The problem is that this incredible artwork keeps fighting against a story that’s struggling from the off, hamstrung from the very concept, which is so plain dumb it’s almost gone through ridiculous all the way round to sublime once more.

It’s all pitched as a Stranger Things meets They Live style thing, all teens saving their town from an alien threat. And that bit of it genuinely works alright. Sure, it’s all playing out the various cliches of this sort of thing, but it’s enjoyable enough as it goes. But, like I said, the concept, the hook just had me incredulous with its stupidness: the teens can only see the alien menace when they’re all stoned. Yep. The only way to save the town is to get completely wasted. Or, as the press guff says, they’re “saving the world one puff at a time“. Oh god.

Ok, that’s the concept. Now let’s lay into the cover…

It’s not that it’s badly drawn, not at all. It’s by Chris Burnham, a good artist. But, even though it’s not badly drawn, it’s a bloody terrible cover; the colors, the awful logo, and worst of all… it just doesn’t make any sense. Look at it again… what are the three figures on the cover reacting to? If you know anything about the book, it’s pretty obvious they’re reacting to the aliens. Yes, the aliens…that are behind them.

(Yes, it could be that they’re surrounded by aliens, but that’s an idea that comes to you a while after thinking it’s bloody ridiculous and doesn’t work – and with a cover, you have to sell it within the first 5 seconds. It’s a rule. Maybe I read it somewhere. Maybe I made it up just. Still, makes sense to me.)

Ok, that’s the cover and page one done in about 500 words. Let’s pick up the pace for the rest of the issue…

Right, time for a palette cleansing moment to look at some more of that incredible Geoffo artwork, as we head out to a (very cliched) teen party… page 9, panel 1…

Here we go again… the panel in a panel, the perfect red cups, then out to the main panel and so much to love, but I’m going with the bikes and the garage figures; the abstraction is just gorgeous.

So, essentially, Burnouts is one big cliche of a teens versus the town trope, with the whole “saving the world one puff at a time” making me wince every time I think of it. We quickly meet all three principles we saw on the cover; the stoner, the purple haired girl and the nerdy, scared kid, Andy. As cliched nerdy kids are want to do in these things, Andy’s heard about a party and desperately wants to go. But, of course, seeing as we’re following the cliches to the letter, his ma and pa put a big time “no” on that, giving Andy the chance to do the classic sneak out on his bike move.

And, keeping on with the cliches, he gets his first hit of a joint from the cute/slightly nerdy girl in the glasses. Which is where we first get to see, through Andy’s (bloodshot) eyes, those aliens taking over everyone at the party.

From here it’s an alien bashing chase to the finish of the issue, with nerdy Andy joining the rest of the burnouts in their alien fighting mission. Until he gets home. And, if you’ve been reading along thus far, you’d have seen the last page coming from the moment you saw the nerdy/cute girl’s eyes go green at the party.

Burnouts issue #1 is an exercise in beautiful, incredible artwork, and it’s artwork that I’ll be looking forward to seeing more of in issue 2. And, depending on just how forgiving you are of a really cliched, but decently enough constructed story, you could rather enjoy Burnouts. Me, I was lost in the artwork and simply let the cliche after cliche wash over me, because Geoffo’s artwork is the absolute star of this show. If the plot/story/concept would have lived up to that, it really would have been an amazing comic.

Burnouts #1 – Written by Dennis Culver, artist Geoffo, letters Dave Dwonch, color flats Lauren Perry, cover by Chris Burnham. Published by Image Comics on the 19th of September.

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