The first thing I want to say about Ferrier and Neogi’s Boom miniseries Curb Stomp is that it is a being of pure style. Set to the hyper-real, neon tune of 1980s gangland cinema, it is exploitation theater projected on a black-lit velvet painting. As such, there is a certain ... allowance, I suppose, that it asks of its readers. In as much that it is a candy-coated pastiche of a misbegotten era, we aren’t supposed to take it too seriously; which is fine, and for “what it is,” that approach works in Curb Stomp #2. But only somewhat, and not without a few glaring structural problems. Unfortunately, even Ferrier’s infectious wit and Lawson’s deliciously acidic colors don’t forgive this issue’s sometimes clunky narrative and painfully stiff art. Yes, it’s a stylish trip, but it is one undertaken with only a modicum of lasting substance, such that it’s hard to tell when a given scene is “over-the-top bad” on purpose, and when it just happens as a misstep in practice.
Curb Stomp #2 sees the Old Beach borough’s quasi-altruistic gang, The Fever, plan and execute a retaliation hit on rival crew, The Wrath, for kidnapping one of their members last issue. Along the way, we get traitorous back-alley collusion, an explosive van collision, knuckleduster contusions and government-backed revisions. Even with all that going on, probably the biggest strength of this issue is Ferrier’s treatment of character. He did well to establish each Fever’s facades last month, but did an even more impressive job of fleshing out each member further still here.
Of course, if you’re like me (i.e., a stupid-big fan of D4VE), because this is a Ryan Ferrier joint, you’ll go into Curb Stomp #2 expecting a fair amount of humor. And while there’s certainly enough here to tickle your fancy, laughter is not necessarily this book’s best medicine. Like its first, issue two goes to some dark places; one woman’s willingness to sacrifice anything for her family, for example, or another’s complete physical reliance on substance. And it’s impressive how much depth Ferrier is able to give to a few choice scenes.
My problem, however, is that - maybe even because of that dynamism - this is a story that often feels lost within itself; like it doesn’t quite yet know what it wants to be. Its storytelling cadence feels too stilted for a “deep-and-meaningful,” and often too serious for the cardboard cut-out homage to gang movies it simultaneously wants to be. It’s gritty, sure, but without teeth - ironically not unlike the mouth of a curb stomp victim.
It also feels jumpy, with a flow that is coagulated all-too-often and suddenly, marked by unnatural scene transitions and jerky dialogue. And while I do think Ferrier is compromising his pacing by trying to jam his story into four issues, I think the bulk of the issue’s weakness rests with the art.
While I dig the absolute hell out of that cover, I have to wonder where Devaki Neogi went wrong on the interiors of this book, and I think I just have to admit that her visual direction in Curb Stomp simply isn’t for me. Art being the subjective creature it is, I do feel like her style will resonate with the unpolished zine-lover set, but using it here undermines and exacerbates any missteps of flow in Ferrier’s writing, giving the whole a hurried, unfinished and unprofessional feel. Is that punk rawk? Maybe, but only if it’s done on purpose ... and I don’t think it necessarily is here.
The action is rigid, perspective is a wash, even characters idly standing by in conversation look ungainly at best. The whole thing gives off this sloppily-cast plastic presence, which, again, may be intrinsic to the fabric in Curb Stomp’s style, but for me makes it feel unwieldy and amateurish, leaning heavily against Lawson’s incredible use of color to even get a pass.
Still, I want to leave off this section on a positive note, and say there is evidence of greatness in Neogi’s work, both in the aforementioned cover and in a pret-ty darn sick scene involving two badass chicks and a motorcycle. I just wish she’d take the time she did in creating these two moments to the entirety of Curb Stomp’s look.
In the end, I want to like Curb Stomp more than I do, but only because I think it could honestly be something both unique and great, if only it had a much stronger visual presence and a less wavering narrative voice.