The Ludocrats #1
The Ludocrats! The aristocrats of ludicrous! A collision of the ornate fantasy of Dune and an M-rated Asterix & Obelix! Baron Otto Von Hades and Professor Hades Zero-K are here, and they're going to save us all have a nice time. The universe screams in pleasure, writhing, finally satisfied, complete, joyous!
Conceived of in 2003 and first announced in 2015, The Ludocrats has finally escaped Development Hell. If any comic was going to be held up by a pandemic, it would certainly be this one. That said, the highly anticipated, farcical brain-child of Kieron Gillen and Jim Rossignol has all but arrived.
In many ways, it meets expectations. Gillen finds fourth walls to break: they are obliterated with the nuance of a narrative blunderbuss. If you expected Rossignol, creator of the video game Sir, You Are Being Hunted, to unleash absurd steampunkery, I assure you he does. It’s difficult to spoil the antics of Baron Otto Von Hades and Professor Hades Zero-K when plot often feels secondary. Many of Gillen’s comics are emotionally deep; Ludocrats, by comparison, feels like a deep exhale.
A crucial question remains: is Ludocrats funny? It matters who you are. Ludocrats approaches humor by moving quickly: if a joke doesn’t land, another of a different kind waits just around the corner. On the one hand, Ludocrats is loaded with “adult humor,” i.e. gratuitous violence and dick jokes. On the other hand, it’s packed with puns, quips, and witticisms. It’s overwhelmingly absurd. This is a book with little subtext: Ludocrats is the friend who tells you that “subtext” contains the same letters as “butt sex.” The most exhausting feature becomes how often characters are vexed by their potential to be boring. I laughed throughout reading, though maybe not as often as the writers wanted.
For a comic that often feels like it prioritizes style over substance, every aspect of its style is worth celebrating. One of the many changes Ludocrats underwent in its lengthy development was the replacement of David Lafuente by Jeff Stokely, the latter perhaps best known for The Spire. His work on Ludocrats is far cartoon-ier, but, like The Spire, terrifically showcases his knack for character design. While the “bones” of Lafuente’s earlier iterations feel visible, Stokely’s designs are a masterclass in shape language and silhouette. Otto’s brash personality is superbly communicated by his bright orange/red color scheme and large, bouncy shapes. In contrast, his counterpart Hades is all triangles and icy blues/greens: a piercing and strategic scalpel to his cudgel.
Tamra Bonvillain’s hyper-saturated colors have never felt more at home and emphasize how boisterous, bouncy, and bold Ludocrats is. It’s far different from her recent comparably less-saturated, moodier work with Gillen on Once and Future, much closer to her work on Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur.
There are heart-eyes, clouds when people fight, and face-plants. There is an onslaught of onomatopoeia. There may be gratuitous blood, but it feels like cherry jam. This is a Saturday morning cartoon by way of gore, lewdness, and absurdity.
Letterer Clayton Cowles, like the rest of Ludocrats’ artistic ilk, changes style dramatically so that the text matches its aesthetic surroundings. It’s chunky. It’s loud.
Stokely’s cover wonderfully communicates the comic’s exuberance and playfulness. It’s delicious eye-candy with little nutritional value.
So what is The Ludocrats? A gratuitously violent, artistically inspired, fourth-wall-obliterating, steampunk/fantasy Saturday-morning-cartoon-meets-Asterix for people who love profanity. Is it ludicrous? Most definitely. Is it funny? That’s subjective.
The Ludocrats #1: Sirs, You Are Being Wicked
Writing - 8/108/10
Storyline - 7.5/107.5/10
Art - 10/1010/10
Color - 10/1010/10
Cover Art - 9/109/10
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