By Ben Snyder
Gory and gruesome, 1985 Black Hole Repo #1 delivers on its publisher, Heavy Metal, Inc.’s namesake. However, behind the artwork, which seems ripped straight from a Metal album’s cover, it misses the mark on the social and political statements it attempts to make. Often, the criticisms are unceremoniously blunt, lacking any subtlety at all. But I guess in this regard the story encapsulates the essence of its heavy metal inspiration as well.
Set in an alternate 1985 in which the US actually nuked Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis, Black Hole Repo offers an interesting if not creative view on what may have been in space travel. Think a more gruesome and less Jazz inspired Cowboy Bepop in which a crew consisting of a lesbian captain, a conspiracy theorist who is best friends with a monkey, a Soviet, and the orphaned narrator make ends meet by repossessing space vehicles for bounties. There’s also an extended scene of the president named “Ronald Rump” that seems unnecessary to the plot and not particularly funny. Unfortunately, the main story and characters simply don’t feel that compelling.
All of the characters do little to distinguish themselves consistently without relying on the outlandish or extreme. Dean is constantly either speaking for his monkey companion Jimmy or rattling off conspiracy theories about aliens, Roach’s seemingly only definable characteristics are that she is a hardass and a lesbian, Bear is drunk and/or naked for the majority of this issue, and Max the narrator is simply there not really doing anything besides driving the plot forward. All of these characters lack any subtly or nuance and often seem as simply caricatures emphasizing stereotypical characteristics.
There really is only so much you can do in the initial issue regarding character development without being to exposition heavy, but it seems as though writers Seth M. Sherwood and Michael Moreci seem more intent on achieving the metal personality. A majority of 1985 Black Hole Repo’s script and story reads like a smack to the face. With the action coming abruptly and the story seemingly aiming for epic proportions there is room for the story to grow into the metal concept album it seems destined to be.
The art by John Bivens is fairly hit or miss throughout the issue. The aesthetic looks as if Bivens drew out the art on a couple crumbled up pages in a high school notebook and this style actually works tonally with the rest of the story. If nothing else, the story something a bunch of high school kids were making up after school (I mean that in the most endearing of ways) and the art reflects that. The lines are sketchy and messy and the details are murky but it really works for the most part. Especially when Bivens is given the opportunity to depict some grisly murder scenes. The aftermath of the Estevez’s is particularly gruesome.
But it’s in moments when the reader needs clarity that Biven’s seems to struggle. Often times it’s hard to depict which character is in the panel or what is actually going on in the scene. A lot of the panels seem cluttered with too many characters doing to many things leading to some confusion as well.
1985 Black Hole Repo #1 is nothing if not unexceptional as it attempts to recreate the heavy metal aesthetic it so admires. It falters on some key aspects namely its characters and overall storyline, but it seems as though this story isn’t intent on delivering a groundbreaking and emotional story. 1985 Black Hole Repo is more focused on delivering a fun and enjoyable ride, which it doesn’t necessarily deliver on.
Heavy Metal Inc.
1985 Black Hole Repo #1