Retropunk has a bit of everything in it. There’s flying cars, robots with human A.I., women with cat augmentations, hit men, and bounty hunters and most importantly the perfect blend of western storytelling and manga artwork. It is for what I call the "Adult Swim Generation." Men and women that spent Friday to Sunday watching cartoons and shows brought over to America and dubbed and it was great. This was before the internet and streaming services made it possible for same day viewing and everything viewed was the next best thing you saw. There is a pool of influences to this story and while you’re sure to notice and catalog all of them it won’t change how much you find yourself liking the story. Retropunk opens with our main character Muffy walking towards a club. While walking we get a dose of the world we’re in as the latest single from a corporate idol/singer blares through the city streets. Muffy turns to her pda on her arm and instantly purchases the single. In the club she walks over to a big bouncer and tries to talk to him. Too bad the music is up too loud forcing her to type the message into the pda. She’s looking for a job and wants to talk to the manager which the bouncer helps her with. The manager catches one look at Muffy and thinks of the perfect position for her and sends his goons out of the office. If you’re thinking you’ve seen this set up before you basically have. The swerve is that Muffy is there to collect a bounty on the manager.
Jumping ahead because you really don’t need to know how that turns out, we meet Muffy’s partner Vern who is a military grade robot. They banter like two people who know each other very well. Back at their apartment Vern heads out to get food and other supplies with Muffy watches her favorite show which is basically an anime. She hears a knock on the door and enters a young girl carrying a bag of money and looking to hire a bounty hunter. The young girl turns out to be the number one pop idol and the singer of the song that Muffy purchased earlier. Apparently she’s run away from the corporation that controls every aspect of her life as if she were company property. The problem is, they’ll do anything to get her back, including sending their number one hitman.
To say that I enjoyed this story is an understatement. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it sure as shit adds rims that make the tires look like they’re not moving. By that I mean the components that make up the story are familiar, but the combination and moving parts make for an entertaining story that's fresh.
Writers James Surdez and Matthew Ritter did a wonderful job with the characters developing them and fleshing them out the way only a manga or anime can, but in half the time. Muffy is definitely the main character, but each person goes through the development process. They eventually develop a team dynamic which worked incredibly well because when they’re acting as a group you can see how different each character really is.
The dialogue is wonderful and not just the characters dialogue. There is a lot of world chatter which not only added to the setting, but also made the futuristic world believable. In particular I enjoyed the show that Muffy watches non-stop. It’s actually not a bad side story and of course mirrors the events in the story we’re reading. There’s plenty of humor throughout the story and it is all dialogue driven making it enjoyable.
The star of the show is Jhomar Soriano’s artwork. Within two pages I was in love with the world of Retropunk. There’s a lot of detail to this all black & white story and at first some might find the pages too muddled or busy, but that’s just the world. I never found it to be an eyesore and when you adjust to the look you’ll be sucked into the artwork the way I was.
There’s a few things to say about the art, the first being the action. This is an action heavy story and Soriano's style makes it easy to follow, but also entertaining and fun. With some artists they think that making it easy to follow means that by default it will be entertaining, but that’s not always the case. Every battle is a visual treat and you want to study the movement and be surprised by the outcome.
The next thing to talk about is the character designs and really the design of the world. Muffy and Vern have a great design, but then so do Naoki and Aya when they show up later. Aya in particular has a bad ass look with her ninja samurai future hybrid design. Muffy with her cat augmentations are of course the best, but really her design is just cute and awesome at the same time. Vern looks a bit influenced by Patlabor which is pretty damn sweet. It’s by no means an exact copy and Vern’s design was easily my second favorite, just behind Muffy.
Not having read all of Markosia’s entire catalog it’s hard to say that this is the best thing they’ve ever published, but it might just be. It’s definitely the best thing I’ve read from them one of the best standalone graphic novels I’ve read this year.
In the beginning I said this was for the “Adult Swim Generation” and that also means that it has a wide appeal to a lot of different people. Manga and anime fans are sure to love this, but then anyone that’s into video games and hitmen will dig it as well. Hell if you’re into cat girls this is probably an easy sell for you. The point is that it’s defies demographics and really genre’s as well so check it out. It won’t disappoint.
Writers: James Surdez & Matthew Ritter Artist: Jhomar Soriano Publisher: Markosia Price: $17.99 Format: OGN; Print/Digital