Review: Warp Zone #2

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.

Score: 4/5

Warp Zone #2
Writer/Artist: Ted Lange IV
Publisher: Rosarium Publishing

Review: Warp Zone #1

By Ben Boruff

To travel the cosmos, you need to find a Warp Zone. And to find a Warp Zone, you need to talk to Jack Elsewhere. That is the premise of Warp Zone, an entertaining, imaginative new comic by Ted Lange IV. Warp Zone is gimmicky, but it is also self-aware, which means that the abrupt expositional panels and narrative breaks are intentional. Warp Zone takes risks, and author Ted Lange IV has fun with the story, offering Mario-style tunnels and a kleptomaniac character named Calico Jones who is “rumored to have loot stashed in various safehouses throughout the galaxy.” The comic combines the offbeat humor of Mad magazine and the large-scale narrative elements of Virgil's Aeneid.


To feel somewhat disoriented by the comic’s fast pace or its sketch-style method of storytelling is to react appropriately to Warp Zone. Instead of allowing Warp Zone's readers to experience interdimentional travel vicariously, Ted Lange IV pushes readers through bold colors and big ideas, which sparks an almost paradoxically pleasant confusion. I had to read several pages two or three times, but I did not mind—I enjoyed the experience. Reading Warp Zone feels, at times, like tumbling through the cosmos, which (in this case) is a positive characteristic of the narrative.

Rosarium Publishing describes the comic as an "Afrofuturist odyssey," which is a meaningful label. In an article published by the Guardian, journalist Steven W Thrasher notes that Afrofuturism is "very personal," and the idea that Afrofuturism is both wide-reaching and intimate is an important one to grasp before exploring the cultural aesthetic further. Thrasher expands on this concept: "In the way that film noir functions as a genre, or jazz as a musical style, Afrofuturism is a philosophy that can be simultaneously obvious and vague in its identity, bounded and porous in its edges." In other words, Afrofuturism seems, in some ways, to be a living concept, an evolving philosophy that may be able to adapt to changing sociocultural trends. Author and director Ytasha L. Womack offers a more straightforward explanation of this concept in an article published by the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies: "Afrofuturists seek to inspire and forge a stronger self-identity and respect for humanity by encouraging enthusiasts to reexamine their environments and reimagine the future in a cross cultural context." Though knowledge of these concepts is not a prerequisite for appreciating Warp Zone, an understanding of Afrofuturism helps contextualize the comic's narrative.

At times, Warp Zone is bizarre, but there is nothing in the comic that is notably more outrageous than anything in Homer's Odyssey. Despite the outlandish nature of the writing and the artwork, Warp Zone is oddly accessible. The characters, though simple, are relatable, and many readers will connect to the desire to step into a portal and wander through the cosmos. That said, if you are ever lucky enough to travel around the galaxy, remember to take Jack Elsewhere’s advice: “When exploring other realms…weapons, spaceships, and magical items are not necessary. All one really needs is a comfortable pair of shoes.”

Score: 3/5

Warp Zone #1
Writer/Artist: Ted Lange IV
Publisher: Rosarium Publishing