Review: ‘Buzzkill’ # 1

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Donny Cates’ new series “Buzzkill” asks us to envision a superhero that derives his powers from alcohol and drug use. Geoff Shaw’s sketchy art brings the story to life, in a raw and vulnerable way. The framing device of an AA meeting makes for a story that’s deep, engaging, and a ton of fun. The protagonist has an amazing introduction, and still Cates finds time to develop the supporting world in an incredible debut issue.


WRITTEN BY: Donny Cates
ART BY: Geoff Shaw
PUBLISHER: Dark Horse
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASE: September 18, 2013

Imagine being a superhero with incredible powers but never remembering your big victories, or never being in full control of your powers. Such is the life of the protagonist of “Buzzkill.” He calls himself “Ruben” at an AA meeting. He’s plagued with the demons of his drug and alcohol use. Or at least it seems. Turns out he kind of misses it. Ruben derives incredible powers from substance abuse. Despite his best efforts to go clean, he is tempted to dive back into the life of a hero.

He is reluctant to speak, but when he does, we learn of his troubled past. We get a loose origin story unlike any other. Cates builds Ruben in an interesting manner. What most would dismiss as party flashbacks are Ruben’s formative years in learning to use his powers.

Geoff Shaw’s light and sketchy lines make for a fluid and grimy feeling. There is hard edge to a world spent abusing substances, and Shaw’s art sells that edge. His character work is elongated and slightly exaggerated. Which allows the book to take a light tone with dark subject matter. Shaw’s work makes the character’s faces look weathered in the right moments, and captures the action beats magnificently. The work on page 10 is nothing short of amazing embodying the terror and fun of the book within four panels.

“Buzzkill” manages to take fun subject and give it some weight. The concept of the series implies a lighter tone, perhaps even a slapstick approach to the superhero world. Instead Cates takes time to make Ruben’s plight grounded. It’s an excellent choice, since the remainder of the script takes fantastic turns. What should have been the silliest aspect of the book actually becomes it’s most serious.

The issue is almost entirely an AA meeting but the final few pages really kick the story into high gear. Cate’s script goes for broke and for the most part succeeds. The entire series pushes into new and interesting territory, and then the issue ends. A lot of the issue is spent talking, and not enough actually acting. This may be a problem for those looking for a little more punching and kicking.

By the end of the issue Cates and Shaw should have you hook, line, and sinker. “Buzzkill” manages to be fun, entertaining, and oddly dark. If you’re looking for a wildly original take on the superhero genre look no further. This is as good as it gets.

Rating 3.5/5 Skulls.