By Ben Boruff
My quiche is cold. I am a self-labeled glutton, and the café downtown makes a near-perfect broccoli-and-cheddar quiche. About 40 minutes ago, I ordered a slice, poured myself some hazelnut coffee, and sat down to read the first issue of Jonas McCluggage's Follow the Leader, a kaleidoscopic saga about violence, death, and hunger. After opening with an ominous depiction of death, the comic introduces Paris, an aging mafia member who is asked to facilitate gang business in a town called Larranceville. I consumed the following 30-plus pages in a few frantic minutes—and then I sat for a long while, quietly, somberly, thinking about what I had just experienced.
Eventually, I noticed that my quiche was cold. I never let my quiche get cold.
Before enjoying the delicacies of McCluggage's nuanced narrative, most readers will feast on the comic's multicolored artwork. The thick-lined silhouettes of McCluggage's weathered characters pop from the panels, contrasting the comic's often hazy, uncomplicated backgrounds. This disparity in detail highlights McCluggage's commitment to meaningful characterization: Follow the Leader is, in part, about people and the choices they make.
Paris is more than the high-ranking, Wolfe-esque member of an expanding mafia: Paris is a Titan, a Promethean protagonist who equips himself with conviction and a gun in an attempt to strong-arm the stubborn truth that he is not the most powerful entity around. A new power—a hunger—lives in Larranceville, and Paris learns slowly that his old ways—"grind your bones to make my bread," as he explains—will do little to combat the cannibalistic longing of the beings that watch from the local park.
Few stories have the ability to push quality quiche from my mind, but just a few pages of Follow the Leader seemed to eliminate my usual midday hunger. The comic's dialogue is smart, and the plot moves effortlessly. The most alluring aspect of this comic, however, is its ability to camouflage horror as mystery and violence. Behind the colorful panels and mafia-driven plot lies a ghoulish presence, a presence that seeps into the reader's consciousness slowly, forcefully, like dark clouds overtaking a once-bright spring day. Without warning, the narrative bares its teeth and bites.
Most readers will gain a better understanding of the consequences of hunger. Follow the Leader seems to assert that nourishment is a solemn sacrifice from one entity to another. Near the end of the comic, a park-dwelling creature asks Paris an important question: "Remind me...of Cain and Abel's two offerings, which did God favour the most?"
The one with blood. That is the answer.
Follow the Leader #1
Writer/Artist: Jonas McCluggage