via Titan Comics
Where do I begin when it comes to talking about Mutafukaz? To be honest, I’m still a bit in shock. There really is no one way to categorize Mutafukaz, out now via Titan Comics. It’s a little bit of alternative, a little bit Rockabilly, a little bit Hip-Hop, and a little bit punk… If I had to use one word to describe it, however, I’d say it’s very American. This is interesting and more than a little impressive considering the writer, Guillaume “Run” Renard, is French.
It’s sometime in the future, and California is no longer what it used to be. In fact, Los Angeles and San Francisco have sunk into the Pacific Ocean thanks to “The Big One”, and all that remains is a bastardized version called New California, with a dystopian city called Dark Meat City. The thing is Dark Meat City doesn’t look ultra futuristic, or too different from parts of Southern California and Mexico. It’s just a version of the present day if inequality and poverty were to win the day, and if good people picked up their shit and ran.
Vinz and Lino (short for Angelino) are well-meaning products of their environment. It’s unfortunate for them that their environment is abject poverty and rife with violence, pestilence, and depravity. Lino is on his umpteenth job as a pizza delivery guy and gets into a nasty crash on a delivery after getting distracted with an attractive girl walking down the street. He gets banged up pretty bad, but instead of just a nasty concussion, his crash has given or awakened the gift of seeing the real shadows of some people walking the gritty streets of Dark Meat City. This puts him on the radar of some real shadowy types, including the very Gestapo-esque Z7 section, a paramilitary police force with genetically modified cops. Lino, who is really just an all black, possibly human boy, and Vinz, a living, breathing boy with a flaming skeleton for a head, have to go on the run when it is discovered that he can see the “real” shadows of these unspecified creatures while they walk around in human bodies.
The bottom line is Vinz and Lino are on the run for most of the comic, that is after a hefty intro by Run about how Mutafukaz came about. They are framed for the “terrorist” bombing of the White House which indicates that whoever they are dealing with is very connected, and very powerful. One gets the feeling that maybe President Gore W. Tex (see what they did there?) might even be in on whatever is going on.
Mutafukaz threw in a few bonus pages that show up here and there, including some info on the resilience of roaches with an order form at the bottom where kids can order a pistol or a gas mask. All they would have to do is send in their money and the form! I loved this because it was definitely an ode to old school comics and mags from back in the day. I remember a few from my grandfather’s National Geographics and my Archie comic books growing up. They never included guns, though…
via Titan Comics
While Lino and Vinz are fun, it’s the supporting characters and their surroundings that are the most interesting and colorful, in my opinion. From luchadores with names like Jesse Christ to gangs based on actual gangs operating through SoCal and the rest of the United States, Mutafukaz takes various American subcultures and exaggerates them to cartoonishly epic proportions. Run spent quite some time in the Southwestern states, and he clearly took notes. Some may accuse him of being a bit of a culture vulture, and to be honest, that critique wouldn’t be without merit, but having grown up on the West Coast and living and experiencing the cultural exchange between California and Washington, he wasn’t off the mark in Mutafukaz. For some, it may cause offense, as the Mexican-American and African-American gangs are straight out of 90s gangster films like Boyz N the Hood or Blood In Blood Out. Dark Meat City is a hyperbolized East LA, Watts, or Juarez, Mexico. There is a huge Chicano cultural presence throughout the city because of all the immigrants crossing in via the Rio Grande, genetically modified jellyfish patrols be damned. If you find those representations offensive, you’ll definitely want to skip on reading Mutafukaz.
Ultimately, I liked it. I’ve said before that I was a bit of a chola growing up, it was the only way I could express my Afro-Latina identity before globalization made it more possible for me to link up other Panamanians in my area. I grew up reading Lowrider magazine and felt the most welcome–and myself–with most of the other Latinos, including the cholos, in school. This didn’t offend me, but I can’t speak for others. Run was definitely inspired enough to draw a cast of realistic characters, but they may ruffle some feathers. To be fair, at the end of Mutafukaz, Run gets all educational on us and gives us the history of the various gangs that were the inspiration for the gangs in the comic like the Madre Suerte for example.
The art is dark, which adds to the overall sense of dread that Vinz and Lino experience at being disenfranchised and trying to get by past the gangs and the lack of options. Mutafukaz is mostly in color, but there are parts that are in black and white, which give it a real film noir quality.
In short, Mutafukaz is part teenage fantasy and fetishization of minority subcultures in the United States, Mexican culture, and film noir–think Roman Polanski’s Chinatown–meets gangster movie from the early 90s. It’s heavy, and even political, but it’s right up my alley as a fan of all of the above–minus the fetishization–and if you like any of the aforementioned, you will too. Just make sure you’re ready because it’s one hell of a fever dream of a comic.