By Alex de Campi, Tony Parker, and Blond

Set during the Cold War, the new five-issue series Mayday, kicks off with a murderous acid trip full of nudity, violence and espionage. Despite the set up, the story itself, by Alex de Campi (Archie vs. Predator), is pretty straight forward, as is the art, neither of which deserve much criticism. It’s written well enough, but as a premiere issue there’s something lacking. There isn’t a single likable character introduced in all of issue #1. There’s no protagonist, no one to root for, no hero, and not even a victim worth saving. The characters feel dirty, which is at times literal. It’s fine to make a realistic comic, where no one is a genuinely good guy, but give us a reason to keep reading at least. By the conclusion of issue #1 we are left wondering what the hook is supposed to be, outside of some shocking deeds by amoral agents and Russian patriots.

There is a sequence depicting a literal drug induced romp in the desert that is, at least visually, worthy of some praise and may be a trademark of Mayday as a series. The artwork in particular, by Tony Parker (This Damned Band) and colored by Blond (New Suicide Squad), during this scene is a spectacle of color and movement that does a nice job of injecting emotion and feeling into the storyline. Those emotions, however, are anxiety and LSD-ladened madness. Even though this particular scene may lean toward the clichés people think of when they hear the term psychedelic rather than the actual experience, that’s not necessarily bad. It basically works here as a climax to the opening act, although it remains to be seen if it’s enough to really sell the comic as a series.

The other well-placed story element is the inclusion of music. Using hits from the period as a soundtrack of sorts assist in establishing the setting. Where the hippie dialogue and the trippy art styling might at times seem unoriginal, you can’t deny the authenticity of rock and roll. Everything from the eight track cassette, to the cars, to the clothing all felt pretty dialed, though it’s not enough to help Mayday standout on the new release rack. A snapshot of the time is one thing, and it definitely makes it better that there’s a story playing out beyond historical documentation, but those two elements fight for purpose, which potentially leaves the reader unfulfilled.

Whether or not the series is ultimately successful, you can bet it’ll have some interesting moments. The hook may be the more abstract parts of the story – like the drugged-up sex scene – and you almost have to wonder how those parts could be topped next time around. Nevertheless, a series without characters worth following might not be a series worth following. Here’s hoping there’s some backstory provided in issue #2 that gives us more reason to invest beyond good artwork.

You may want to check out Mayday #1 for a change of pace, although, with a slew of first issues coming out every week, there’s plenty of variety. That variety equals stiff competition for this new book, noble effort or not.

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About The Author Matthew Strackbein

Matt Strackbein was born and raised in Maryland but has called Colorado home for the last 17 years where he lives happily in Longmont with his wife. He began reading comic books at the age of seven after discovering a silver age stash in his grandparents’ attic. Comic books inspired Matt to start drawing, which lead to a successful career as a commercial artist. He has worked in the apparel industry for many years as a production artist and designer. His accomplishments include designing backcountry skiwear for world-class athletes as well as downhill ski race suit designs for the 2014 Winter Olympics for the United States and Canadian national ski teams. Matt currently works as a freelance textile-print designer, but still dedicates time to his first love – comics. With over 200 letters to the editor published, Matt is a known letterhack. He self-publishes autobiographical comics about his struggles to break into the industry, which finally paid off when Dark Horse asked him to produce 2-page back up stories in recent issues of B.P.R.D. Besides his own comics, Matt collaborates on independent books as a colorist and letterer. He also teaches the art of making comics to students of all ages.