By Dustin Cabeal
With a name like Bastard’s Waltz and the main character named “John The Bastard,” you better fucking believe that I was going to check this book out. The catch is that most people think that anything with “Bastard” in the title is a shoe-in for praise on this site, but it’s the opposite. I’m not just going to stamp our seal of approval on something because it shares a word, but rather I’m going to be tough on it just like any other book.
That said, holy fuck I loved the hell out of this comic. I’m not even going to try and hide it; it was a treat to read. First off, I pretty much hate all indie superhero books. Mostly because they all come across as cleaned up fan fiction “oh that’s what I would do with Flash” and blah, blah, blah. The flip side of that is that an entire world the size of the big two is created in an issue but without any of the content or care. There are tons of exceptions to this rule, but there are also ten times as many that prove it. Most don’t even get a review because I’m left with nothing to say about them other than, “Yes, this is a Batman esque story, but not actually Batman.”
John the Bastard is in a superhero world, but there’s little in the way of superheroes in this story. Just that John has killed one of their sidekicks, beaten the shit out of most of them and killed a shit ton of people. He’s the best there is at what he does, and that’s killing people, from which he also profits. To get this point across in the first issue writer Mark Bertolini has John walk into a bank and announce his presence. People instantly drop to the ground and assume they’re about to die. Strangely enough, he asks for the cops to be called and even they’re like, “Fuck, we’re going to die.” John’s demands are simple; he wants to talk to an Executive Protection Agent by the name of Ezekiel Sweet. Yes, this is a little like The Black List, but only for this brief moment because the story only gets better from here.
I don’t know what the tagline for this comic is, but it should probably be “Who can protect the most dangerous man in the world?” Or something better… much better. This idea though is interesting. John has been faced with his own mortality and suddenly fears death. A man so familiar with death has found himself on the other side of the scope, and it's terrifying. It’s also extremely human of him since regardless of what movies show us, 99% of people will fear death when presented with it. Bertolini captures that perfectly. He also manages to introduce John in two ways, the way he’s been perceived in this world before the story began and how he’s being viewed now.
The art by Giovanni Guida reminds me a lot of Stefano Cardoselli’s work, but not as heavy on the inking. The ink work is beautiful and thick giving the book all its personality and style. The linework is detailed, but far from photo perfect. There’s a flair of style to it that resonates from beginning to end. The coloring is another big part of the personality of the story and art. The muted tones and earthy hues keep the book grounded. It doesn’t look like a typical tights 'n' capes book because it’s not bright and vibrant. The grounded coloring sets this book apart from the majority of other titles out there, which is a good thing.
Having read damn near everything Darby Pop has published I can say that this has been their best first issue of any series. It’s only one issue, so I’ll keep any other bold claims until it’s completed, but you better believe that I’ll be back for more of Bastard’s Waltz and I highly recommend you pick it up when it releases.
Bastard’s Waltz #1
Writer: Mark Bertolini
Artist: Giovanni Guida
Letterer: Micah Myers
Publisher: Darby Pop Publishing