Paul Pope’s Heavy Liquid: Science Fiction With Style

by Richard Bruton

I’ve been a huge fan of Paul Pope ever since falling in love with his work with the first issue of THB. Since then, every single book he’s released has been something to really look forward to, yet all too many of them are too difficult to find. Heavy Liquid is a case in point, originally released in 1999/2000 from Vertigo as a 5-issue series, followed by a collection, but not available for a long time.

Now, thankfully, there’s a chance to pick up this wonderfully kinetic, gloriously futuristic Sci-Fi thriller in a deluxe edition from Image Comics. This is a very good thing indeed.

Heavy Liquid manages to encapsulate everything I love about Paul Pope’s work, blending so many different influences; Manga, bandes dessinee, rock and roll, and science fiction all into one perfectly breathless story that hits the ground running and doesn’t let up till the very end.

In Heavy Liquid, S is the detective hired to find a reclusive sculptor to craft amazing things from Heavy Liquid, something that’s the rarest of metals, completely toxic to the touch, explosive in the wrong hands and desired by the rich and powerful across the world.

But S also knows that Heavy Liquid is far more than that. He knows it’s also a substance that can be cooked up, heroin style, into a new breed of drug, a powerful, incredible psychedelic. And he’s far more connected to the case than he should be, as the sculptor he’s searching for is a love he lost.

I could go into the cast some more, but it’s far better to show you some beautiful Pope art here to do it so much better than I could…

His search for the sculptor takes him on a frenetic ride across two continents, pursued through a beautifully shabby, derelict New York and on to Paris by deadly Picasso-masked gangsters out for revenge and a besuited Fed who knows the ultimate secret of Heavy Liquid.

Along the way, as is Pope’s fashion, S finds himself dropped into a world of artists, pirate girls, marauding spidery robots, and girl gangs. All of his books are full of wonderfully strange characters and Heavy Liquid is no exception.

In Heavy Liquid, you have a thrilling Sci-Fi adventure that is perhaps the epitome of Pope’s work. And, as I said at the beginning, I think Pope is still, even though he doesn’t create comics all that often, one of the most exciting talents in the medium we have.

He’s an artist whose art is so incredibly fluid and dynamic. The action sequences are as perfectly staged as anything I’ve seen, in any medium. As an example, just look at this page…

So much goes on in a Pope action sequence, so many kinetic lines, so fluid, and never ever losing focus, never allowing the reader to lose focus. It’s a beautiful thing, it really is.

He’s been criticised at times as a stylist, but I’ve no time for that. Yes, Pope’s work is stylised, packed with movement, artwork that bursts off the page with energy and ideas, yet always beautifully composed. He’s also an artist wearing his influences on his sleeve… but when the sleeve looks so incredibly good, it’s easily forgivable.

But he’s also an artist capable of some magnificent beauty, whether it’s in the quieter moments found in his work, including Heavy Liquid, or the frequent splash pages he loves to include, just like this thing of beauty…

Heavy Liquid is a work of a real comics star, unavailable for way too long. It bristles with intense style, magnificent artwork, breathless action and a trippy, hallucinogenic wonder befitting the drug of the title. Do yourselves a favour and seek it out. Then go find everything else you can from Paul Pope, you won’t be disappointed.

Heavy Liquid by Paul Pope, color separations by Lee Loughridge, letters by John Workman. Published by Image Comics.

And as a final word… summing up Heavy Liquid in particular and Paul Pope in general…

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