By Ben Boruff
I wonder where Ted Lange IV goes to create Warp Zone. I wonder what the room looks like. The comic's multicolored, eclectic vibe transcends traditional comic book genres, so I imagine that Lange's workspace is equally stimulating. Given the Trekkian vitality of the first two issues of Warp Zone, I picture dark walls and a skylight. I see a poster of 2001: A Space Odyssey behind a sleek, post-modern off-white desk. A number of dog-eared books, including Neuromancer and A Right to Be Hostile: The Boondocks Treasury, rest on the floor. Small canvas prints of various surrealist paintings pepper one side of the room, and a wall-sized copy of Wangechi Mutu’s Funkalicious fruit field covers another. A randomized playlist of Janelle Monáe and Pink Floyd flows from wireless speakers hidden around the room, and glow-in-the-dark stars cover the inside of the door, signaling the arrival of the moon each night. At least that’s what I imagine.
Warp Zone ignores traditional narrative and artistic structures. Like a William Carlos Williams poem, this issue features a great amount of empty space. A few dense panels float in a black abyss, much like the protagonists of Gravity, Alfonso Cuarón’s space odyssey. The story is an episodic, stop-and-go jumble of comedy and plot—and I love it.
Lange’s Warp Zone is an existentialist tribute to Afrofuturism packaged as a high-concept comic. The protagonist, Mungo, spends much of his time trying to have an authentic reaction to the absurdity that surrounds him, and his journey toward authenticity is both entertaining and frustrating. To claim that Warp Zone #2 is a disorienting cocktail of science fiction comedy—one part Monty Python, one part Osmosis Jones, one part Enter the Void, and two parts The Fifth Element—is to underestimate the comic’s narrative depth. A thematically intriguing drama lives behind Warp Zone’s Mad-esque gimmicks.
Readers who—like Mungo—explore the abyss of multilayered subtext will be rewarded with a new appreciation of hope. “Since I left Earth,” Mungo says, “I’ve learned that hoping and getting are two different things.” Mungo’s acknowledgement of hope reveals Lange’s philosophical and optimistic approach to fantasy. In Adult Swim’s Rick and Morty, science fiction is blended with suburban drama to create a grotesque examination of nihilism. At one point, Morty tells his sister Summer a bleak truth: “Nobody exists on purpose; nobody belongs anywhere; everybody's gonna die. Come watch T.V.” Though Warp Zone’s universe seems similarly chaotic—and at times equally pointless—the comic’s characters remain positive. Unlike Rick and Morty, Lange’s Warp Zone celebrates illogical hope. Mungo is more like James T. Kirk than Rick Sanchez, and Mungo’s recap of the first issue captures the spirit of Enterprise’s five-year mission: “Some time ago, I stumbled into something called a Warp Zone. It’s like a doorway between worlds. Since then, I’ve seen some wild shit.”
My advice: Enjoy the comic’s “wild shit.” And if you’re looking for more meaning, talk to Jack Elsewhere—and join the club.
Warp Zone #2
Writer/Artist: Ted Lange IV
Publisher: Rosarium Publishing