By Justin McCarty
The Universe is real big, man. Void Trip is a new comic published by Image coming out next month. Created by Ryan O’Sullivan and Plaid Klaus, Void Trip is a psychedelic road trip comedy in the vein of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, their words, not mine. In fact, O’Sullivan bills this as Guardians of The Galaxy meets Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Those are big shoes to fill. If you want to invoke drug culture and free-thinking, Fear and Loathing is a good place to start, though. I get the vibe, but I would amend all that by saying this is more of a Cheech and Chong meets Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy kind of story. There is a lot here, and I think it was amazingly executed.
Void Trip follows a couple of space hippies in their space hippie van on their way to the space hippie mecca, Euphoria. We have Ana and Gabe, a couple of vagabonds whose only purpose, it seems, is to be itinerant, on their way to their promised land. Ana is the lovable hippie with an amoral compass whose beliefs fall very much on the side of, “fuck the man and his rules, man.” Gabe is an older hippie, maybe a beatnik, and if there is a spectrum, he falls on the side of, “love our fellow man, man.” That’s pretty much the opening to the story. A very ominous soldier (the man?) and his private eye are following them. The "man’s" purpose is to keep them from being free spirits. So our road trip may very well turn into a chase.
It’s hard to find good adult-comedy comic books, to me anyway. This had some great moments that really made me chuckle. Ana is that kind of free spirit we all wish we could be. Just, who cares, man. Gabe says to Ana, okay let's fix your mess, and let you screw it up all over again. She screams, “Deal!”. Gabe is laid back very much in your Tommy Chong kind of way. We spend this first issue getting to know these two and their hippie philosophies. They aren’t the same, and that’s a large part of the conflict. It makes for some truly funny interactions. By far the funniest stuff comes in the night-club scenes. I won’t spoil it for you, but if you’re looking for that Fear and Loathing vibe, it’s in those pages.
On the surface, you have a drug road trip story, but with almost a Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy feel. There’s an absurdist bent to these characters and story. Right out we get Ana’s values and how she feels about the Universe. The story opens as she is stealing the fuel of a kind-hearted delivery driver. Nothing matters but the will for her. She is an Existential Nihilist. There’s no real meaning in the world. She falls more on the bohemian side of the hippie philosophy. “We can’t have a single place be our goal. -- Journey, not the destination, man.” She has a real belief system though and it shows. She’s not a one-dimensional stoner. Gabe is the sensitive beatnik. He’s the one that believes in peace and love. He’s anti-authority too, but he has a real moral order that Ana doesn’t seem to have. He is older and more pragmatic. He knows who he is.
A lot of Ana and Gabe’s conflict comes through in facial expression and gestures. Plaid’s caricature-like rendering quickly pulls you into their internal conflict. The art comes together so well that it immediately drops you into this trippy world. The art in the bar scenes does all the heavy lifting. The trippy moments would not have been as funny without Plaid's particular style. Plaid was having a good time penciling and coloring this, it shows. The letters during those scenes shouldn’t be missed either, done by Aditya Bidikar, they add another layer to the hallucinations. There’s big wide open scenery. The book seems equally warm and cool tones, getting dark when we venture into the internal conflict of the main characters.
Void Trip is true to its title. It’s going to be, on the surface, light and funny stoner comedy, but there is going to be an undercurrent of: What is the meaning of all this? We will explore the void, the nothingness. Whoa, that’s deep, man.
It’s a five issue series, starting November, 22. Pick it up. You won’t be disappointed.
Void Trip #1