By Corey Lewis
Hey, do you like your face? If you do, you could always just not read Sun Bakery #1 because experiencing the blitzkrieg of unbridled creativity found within will most assuredly melt your face right off. Still, that’s a small price to pay for one of the most mercurial comics you’re likely to read all year.
The love child of manga, Nintendo, social media, and all things radical was borne from the mind of Corey Lewis originally as Kickstarter project before being published under Alternative Press’ Press Gang imprint last year. Now, Image Comics is releasing the one-man anthology to what will hopefully be a vast new audience. For those that are new to it, steel yourself for manic and mesmerizing comic craft.
Sun Bakery #1 is, in a word, bonkers. Corey Lewis’ ideas seemingly trip over themselves in a mad dash to come to life on a page that can barely contain them. Structured as three seemingly unrelated tales, the connective tissue is presented by a narrator tour guide in the form of a talking light bulb named Bulb because of course he is. The opening page also includes a map that hints at these stories all taking place in the same world, but is largely focused on providing quick introductions to each of the three main characters featured in the debut issue. And they are awesome and thoroughly ridiculous in the best possible way.
The opening tale, “Arem”, is an amalgam of Metroid, Pokemon, modern-day internet culture, and tried and true space adventuring. It reads, like all of the stories found in this issue, as something of an old-fashioned radio serial as its protagonist dives head first into the unexplored and the hyper anxiety of knowing that anything can happen from one panel to the next washes over everything. Lewis’ art is at its loosest here, with forms being suggested as opposed to meticulously detailed or adhering to familiar physics. With some sparingly used screentone to add texture to the infinite sky, Lewis’ lines flutter between something akin to Toby Cypress and Andrew Maclean. It’s raw and beautifully coddled by a palette awash in lavender and mauve that instill an alien yet familiar landscape and tone. Playful social media panels interplay with lovingly crafted hand drawn sound effects that all work in synch to create a fervor of punk fueled planet hopping. If there’s anything happening under the surface, it’s an exculpation of internet culture as honest and joyous communication between individuals in a seemingly infinite sea of horrors.
Easily the highlight of the issue is the second story, “Dream Skills.” By far the most interested in establishing depth to its setting, “Dream Skills” applies a degree of Silver Age enthusiasm in explaining how its world operates; namely, it just does, okay? Like “Arem”, our main protagonists are women which is of course very welcomed. A futuristic samurai film aesthetic supports more video game influences here as Lewis has the story play out not unlike a tutorial level in one. Stemming from a common debate Lewis admittedly has with himself, “swords vs guns”, it’s unsurprisingly and unapologetically over the top. Of course, it’s again the art that’s the reason to lose oneself in its effervescent splendor. A little tighter than the linework found in “Arem”, Lewis zooms in, out, and around with reckless abandon but pays great care to his characters’ lithe body language while alternating between exquisitely minimal and comically minimal expressions. The color palette is rife with magenta and champagne gradients that blend as much as they contrast, ultimately creating a sense of fervent wonder. “Dream Skills” is inarguably more layered than anything else found here and the potential for examining a society that has brushed aside guns in favor of the equalizing force of the blade, in a world with mysterious inner aura shields, is a rich quarry to be mined in terms of real world commentary. If it stumbles at all, it’s the peculiar use of what may or may not be future vernacular by the woman of color that’s uncomfortably akin to something the crows in Dumbo may utter. Having a gun pointed at her almost immediately thereafter hardly helps. It’s the only negative that causes a pause in a tale that otherwise causes nothing but pauses that leave your mouth lovingly agape throughout.
Finally, “Bat Rider” closes out the main portion of the book and it’s arguably the weakest entry. This is due solely to its presentation, as its vertical panels were originally designed for a mobile reading experience. Repackaged here, it’s at times too busy (which is really saying something) and transitions disjointed when forced to coexist with each other on sequential four-panel pages. Sometimes it works despite this, like the opening page where a gradual zoom in to our protagonist establishes setting wonderfully and tone in a manner that one is more likely to find in manga. “Bat Rider” is strikingly colorless as Lewis opts for stark and sharp black and white to tell his tale of wicked shredding. Ironically, there’s a lot more detail to be found here with finer lines complementing solid blacks and maniacally fun choices to inverse said blacks. Being virtually dialogue-free, the story moves at a rapid pace that matches the sidewalk surfing velocity of its subjects. Oh, and the skateboard talks and that is basically perfect. Lewis is working almost entirely surface-level here and that’s fine. The action speaks louder than any words ever could, even those uttered by a rad deck.
There’s also a “bonus” tale found beyond the afterword that’s actually as strong as anything else here. It’s far more patient and atmospheric in its telling and rendered with resolute heft that marries Sin City with the work of Al Hirschfeld.
Sun Bakery #1 takes itself seriously only insomuch as the act of creating is refreshingly pure. In all its schizophrenic glory, Corey Lewis has crafted a celebration of the acts of creating and storytelling themselves. There’s an honest sense that anything can happen and will happen; an effect that blurs the fear and invigoration of being completely out of control. Do not hesitate to give yourself over to the frenzy that is Sun Bakery and enjoy every minute of the subsequent face melting.