Like a Dadaist version of a DIY music club flyer come to live, “Punks” sees Joshua Hale Fialkov and Kody Chamberlain deliver a stream of consciousness comic book that sees a skull that can deliver flaming nut punches, a dog in a suit, a fist that speaks with signs on sticks and Abraham Lincoln living together in an apartment and causing general distress to each other. It’s slice of life comics if life were populated by talking gnomes and sexy raptor ladies. The end result is fun and establishes a status quo that would let the creators do pretty much whatever they want with these tales, and is visually striking with a very specific style executed by Chamberlain.
The book is split up into a new tale, several activity pages, and a reprint of the first half of an old story involving the same characters. Each story is more an excuse to bounce these terrible friends off of one another to see how they can make each other’s lives worse. It’s an anarchic style, comics for the sake of comics. The humor is reminiscent of the hyper violent fun of an Evan Dorkin comic or the anything-can-happen shenanigans of “God Hates Astronauts” or “Axe Cop.” If you’re looking for serialized storytelling with soap operatic plots then you have visited the wrong book. There are some fun punchlines to be had but ultimately there isn’t much that is incredibly memorable in the stories. The activity pages are funny and the old story is an interesting feature, if only to see how the writing and production style have changed since the creators’ first go-round with this concept.
Chamberlain’s art is stylized, a pastiche of photostat images designed to look like they’ve been cut out and pasted together on the page. It visually establishes the anything goes nature of the story itself and the vein in which Fialkov and Chamberlain wish their work to be viewed. Certain pages sacrifice clarity in storytelling for style like any good punk art. The result is interesting, like a ‘zine that could be found on a table outside ABC No Rio in the 1980s.
There is no real purpose to the book other than free-association distraction which is a good thing in this case. It has style and a voice, as fragmented as that voice may be. The title of the book is apropos of the storytelling, mashing imagery and ideas together for the sake of doing it to see if anything new can be created from existing media. I had a smile on my face after finishing the book but nothing stayed with me for very long afterwards as there wasn’t really a connection to be had with the characters.
“Punks” is a sandbox in which its creators can play and get dirty in any way they see fit. It’s comics for release, not looking to convey any type of message or do anything more than to simply entertain with words and pictures. It’s a silly ride in the moment that is over the moment the back cover is closed.