Hold on to your hats, pistols, and ball gowns boys and girls. This review won’t take long to write, because I really-REALLY- can’t write too much without giving the entire gist away. People in general don’t like spoilers, right?
I should note that I came into possession of these comics because I walked into my local comic book store and asked for the newest issue of SAGA. The owner said, “No new SAGA, but I do have this new series. It’s wicked cool; I like it a lot.” Still awash in disappointment over the lack of new SAGA titles, I grabbed the series and bought all the issues without flipping through them or asking about the contents.
So… the title. Vertigo Comics’ publishing team knows a thing or two, because the title grabs your attention from the very beginning. There’s a lot of tango. There are also bangs, both violent and… not. But that’s all the gratuitous carnality you get, so go buy the series. The overall feel is oily, sensual, and violent.
The action is literally nonstop-it would have to be, to fit an entire storyline into 6 pieces of work- but seriously, I had to stop reading between #4 and #5 because there’s just that much dialogue and action to process. Even when two or three characters are just talking, undercurrents run through the scenes to hint at future disaster.
I found BANG! TANGO hard to read for a number of different reasons. Respected artist Adrian Sibar illustrated the series, but the panels are visually confusing. Sometimes the content is laid out to read one page at a time, while at other times you have to read across both pages. It’s tiring on the eyes. But Rodney Ramos’ ink never quits- human limbs, dollar bills, music lyrics, bullet casings, and a fantastically green caterpillar swarm across pages, spilling out of their panels and sprawling across scenes in swatches of heavy color like oil paint on a canvas.
The subject matter was another area of difficulty. This comic series is gritty, bloody, dark, broken. Characters maim and hurt each other with ferocious intent. Murder abounds, as does cruelty in all forms. At one point a character pulls out a personalized torture device resembling a transformed can opener and mentions that he likes to put it in peoples’ intestines through their orifices. Gulp.
I felt that Adrian Sibar’s pencil work, while appealing, was somewhat stiff. It was as though I was reading a comic with snapshots of statues instead of actual illustrations. The characters’ expressions were mostly one-dimensional as well. When Autumn wasn’t pouting her red, botoxed lips (picture an animated singing crab with a Jamaican accent telling a little mermaid to pucker up her lips “like dis”), she was crying prettily, with shiny white tears running down her face like water from a faucet. Vincente scowled manfully, glared manfully, and gritted his teeth as though suffering from lockjaw. Melina’s facial expressions were the most off-putting. So much more depth could have been added to her character, and instead she was relegated to bouts of idiotic smiling in between icy solemnity as strands of her long hair fell directly into her face-not a convincing hairstyle for a professional dancer.
Writer Joe Kelly’s dialogue and storyline save this comic series. You root for Autumn and despise Vin, while pitying Melina and wondering when she’s going to kick Vin to the curb-but wait! Tables turn and reader loyalties shift abruptly to keep pace with the tight writing. Joe Kelly’s masterful slow reveal is aching and sad, frustrating to the point of regret.
Overall, BANG! TANGO is a bit like riding a roller coaster in the front car, without a seat belt, while sitting next to a yowling, deeply unhappy cat who IS belted in. Sensory experience? Absolutely. Will you remember that ride for eternity? Very possibly. You can grab a cat and go try your luck at Six Flags, but honestly there’s probably a comic shop closer to you. And you won’t end up on any theme park watch lists.
~ Shiera Carter ~