Some comics are Low Concept (dude, cape, punching), some comics are High Concept (Hey, I wonder what would happen if a Fantastic Four took over the world in secret) and some comics are Perfect Concept.
Ray Fawkes and Cameron Stewart's "The Apocalipstix" is the kind of idea that's so simple and appealing you can't believe it took so many decades of publishing popular comics for someone to think of it. Cute Girls. End Of The World. Rock And Roll.
After a handful of pages of preamble, Fawkes and Stewart take us right onto the road for the first of the three almost perfectly sized and paced adventures in this first volume. It's not very complicated stuff. Megumi (drums), Dot (bass), and Mandy (guitar/vox) are chasing after a gang of the sorts of thugs that always seem to populate your average post-apocalyptic wasteland. Stewart, appropriately, adds a bit of rock fashion to the accouterments of pretty much all the survivors, so your Mad Max chains and leather are joined by gimp masks, fishnets, and feather collars. It's a nice touch that helps maintain the book's strange pop reality. The thugs lead them to an enclave of more thugs and, well, I'd be loathe to ruin the gag.
Along with music, food and fuel are the main forms of currency in this world, and all three stories center around one or all of them. The rest of the book has the girls fighting giant ants and taking part in a spectacular battle of the bands where the winner gets enough fuel to reach the fabledly untouched state of California.
Like I said, you won't need to keep Wikipedia open on your MacBook to fully grasp the story here. But that's fine. Fawkes and Stewart have created an album of straight forward, uncomplicated Power Punk comics.
The big revelation here is Cameron Stewart's spectacular feats of cartooning. While he's of course known for his fantastic work depicting bright superheroics in "Seaguy" or the gritty realism of "The Other Side," I doubt anyone could have expected the kind of flexibility that would allow him to so confidently bring to life such a remarkably pop cartoony world. While not as surreal as something like Jamie Hewlett's work in creating Gorillaz, it certainly has that same spirit of irreverence. However, it's Stewart's inherent capabilities as a more realistic artist that anchor the art of the entire book and give the feats of brash and elastic linework an even bigger impact. Nothing feels out of place or untethered, whether it's a giant roundhouse to the pincers of a giant ant or a quiet moment of realization when Megumi runs into the last thing she ever expected to. As infectiously pop as Fawkes and Stewart's concept and storytelling are, the art is just vivid and appealing. Stewart channels every style from Philip Bond to Mort Drucker all while maintaining a vision that's uniquely his own. (He's also designed three protagonists that will have you running to your closest copy of "Rock Band" in hopes of replicating them for home use.)
Fawkes is just as charming in crafting dialogue that's not only fun, but also makes room for some surprising and welcome moments of quiet characterization. The tried and true conceit of a post-Nuke America is infused in this book with a fresh adherence to a rock and roll world by making the only survivors either gigantic music fans or musicians themselves.
Just as the awesomeness of a book like "Scott Pilgrim" is kind of hard to sum up in words ("It's just, I mean come on. It's Scott Pilgrim! It's awesome!"), "The Apocalipstix" has the same kind of intangible aura of just plain fun. It's a song that gets stuck in your head but you never mind it. It's bubblegum that somehow takes forever to lose its flavor.
I wish there was another way to say it but there isn't. "The Apocalipstix" rocks.
(CBR is hosting a 50 page preview of the book, if you'd like to read more.)