Review: Multiple Warheads - Alphabet to Infinity #1

Review by: Ed Allen Brandon Graham has been making quite the name for himself recently. His work as writer (and occasionally artist) of the conceptually stimulating and action packed science-fiction adventure comic Prophet is widely acclaimed as one of the finest new comics of 2012, and the paperback collection of his first major work, the eccentric sci-fi King City, has met with similar praise from critics and fans alike. Following on from this success, Multiple Warheads (Alphabet to Infinity) is Graham’s first solo project since the completion of King City and, in terms of artistic style and storytelling techniques, Multiple Warheads picks up right where King City left off. At this point it’s only fair that I point out that I am a big fan of his previous work, so if this review seems a little too biased in Graham’s favor then you’re free to remain skeptical, but that’s just something we’re going to have to live with.

Multiple Warheads (Alphabet to Infinity) #1 follows Sexica and Nikoli, a young Russian couple from Red City, as they undertake an epic road trip to the “Impossible City” across the vast open expanses of their surreal future motherland. Sexica is a former organ smuggler who inadvertently transformed her boyfriend Nikoli into a werewolf after - and I’m not exaggerating this detail - she grafted a wolf’s penis onto his body (with no notable regrets from either party). In this bizarre future Russia, genetic modification and the harvesting of vital organs from specially grown hosts has become commonplace within the world of organised crime and the nation is ruled over by an interfering and propaganda-spewing state nicknamed “the Krab”.

MultipleWarheads01_arc2-1The issue also introduces Nura, a deadly organ harvester for hire who dispatches her foes with ruthless efficiency, as she embarks upon a mission to recover one of the richest organ-growing clones ever known. In stark contrast to the slow burn of Sexica and Nikoli’s whimsical character moments, Nura’s sections of the issue are fast paced and action packed. We’re yet to see how the plot threads tie together but it’s safe to assume that a collision of the two is inevitable.

Many of the reviews I've seen of King City have said that it was more about its setting than its protagonists and, while I don't think that's entirely correct, such comments do indicate Branon Graham's emphasis on world-building at all times and the leisurely pace of that particular comic. In Multiple Warheads the story moves faster and there's a keener focus on the characters but if you’re unwilling to allow your gaze to linger on each page then you will miss out on so much of what makes this comic work. Graham fleshes out his setting through by the background with details such as advertising, fashion, gadgets, bizarre creatures, graffiti, maps, diagrams, and of course the landscape itself. If you enjoy a good pun (or even the terrible ones) then you’re in luck with Multiple Warheads - there’s at least one on virtually every page, and some are absolutely littered with them (even the comic’s title itself is a pun - I’ll let you figure out what it’s referring to). Graham’s light-hearted humor is a near-constant counterpoint to the weighty themes represented by Sex and Nik - of a passionate young love, dislocation, loss, adulthood, the possibilities offered by travel and their hope for “a smoother life” - as well as the seriousness of Nura’s ice-cold pursuit of her target. Multiple Warheads is a rewarding experience for those who are prepared to take their time with it and at 48 pages it can work out to be a surprisingly long read for a monthly comic.

No discussion of Multiple Warheads would be complete without mention of Brandon Graham’s distinctive artwork. His style is characterized by smooth, narrow, confident lines which give his characters a rounded, lively appearance. There’s something reminiscent of Moebius’s work in the hyper-density of Red City or the grand vistas frequently on show in Multiple Warheads, particularly in the way Graham contrasts patches of intricately detailed fine ink-work with open areas of space to create a sense of vertiginous scale and focus the reader’s eye. Graham has used a palette of muted pastel tones to color the comic which are very easy on the eyes and gives everything a hand-me-down weather-beaten look. Graham's decision to letter the comic by hand also helps to give Multiple Warheads an endearingly personal feel and allows him to affect the intonation of his dialogue or create sounds in his own way.

Those of you who are already fans of Brandon Graham’s previous work shouldn’t need much encouragement to give Multiple Warheads (Alphabet to Infinity) #1 a try; the rich imagination we’ve come to expect from Graham is hard at work and his artwork has never looked better. If you haven’t already encountered his comics then this issue is the perfect place to start. Multiple Warheads is a charming comic, one which features high adventure and a scattering of madcap concepts yet remains (relatively) grounded by a knowing sense of humor. I can promise you that this comic will be unlike anything else you read this month and I can’t wait to read next month’s installment. Highly recommended.

Score: 5/5

Writer/Artist: Brandon Graham Publisher: Image Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 10/24/12