Bills, Blood, And Broken Bones: Reviewing ‘On the Stump #1’

by Brendan M. Allen

The campaign trail is paved with blood and broken bones. History diverged in 1868 when a pivotal presidential debate turned violent. Today, elections are decided by highly publicized hand-to-hand combat in arenas called Stumps. Unfortunately, the violence doesn’t end in the ring, and powerful people can still get away with murder.
Senator Jack Hammer and FBI Agent Anna Bell Lister are teaming up to bring it all down. Eisner-nominated writer Chuck Brown (Bitter Root) joins forces with Italian artist Prenzy (#Like4Like) and letterer Clayton Cowles to create a hyper-violent tale full of countless injustices—and people who have to fight for their place in it.

How much would you pay to watch US Senators beat the everloving snot out of each other? Just really tear into one another in order to get things done? Quick. Efficient. Entertaining.
That’s how things work in On The Stump #1. As a politician, if there’s a bill you want passed, you had damned well believe in it with every fiber of your being, because the person across the ring from you will do everything short of killing you to sink it. 
Needless to say, this is a mature title. Because of the politics. Oh, and the graphic spontaneous globe luxation. Also, the decapitation. And, some foul language. 

Chuck Brown throws the reader right into the ring with this series opener. Obviously, we’re dealing with a bit of allegorical political satire. Some references are obvious, others, not so much. It might take a second or third pass to catch all the little nods and pokes at our current Charlie Foxtrot system. As wildly violent as this story is, it really isn’t that far of a stretch. 
Prenzy’s artwork is a brilliant fit to Brown’s script. It’s violent and frenetic. Shots go in and out of focus, conveying the mad, frenzied, senseless violence of the whole thing. Prenzy also plays around quite a bit with layout and panels, torquing the gutters out of square to create a chaotic tension.

Political satire, action/adventure, espionage, ultraviolence, and mixed martial arts. So far, this thing has my attention. On The Stump is clever and cheeky, while hitting just a tiny bit too close to home. Also, super violent. Seriously, if you have a gentle stomach, you probably want to pass.

On The Stump #1, Image Comics, 19 February 2020.  Written by Chuck Brown, art by Prenzy, letters by Clayton Cowles.

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