10 November 2009

Daily Breakdowns 035 - Prison Pit

Prison Pit Book One
By Johnny Ryan
Published by Fantagraphics Books. $12.99 USD

We know Johnny Ryan is prolific, but he's also pretty savvy about managing his career. As the serial comic continues its slow death, Ryan has been contributing strips regularly to Vice Magazne, which one expects will be collected at some point, and now he's got not just a graphic novel out but one of a series, it seems. In this one, a large ship inserts a tube into a hole in the surface of a planet, and then we see inside that a bloody, savage-looking guy is being made to essentially walk the plank and fall to his exile on the planet. He takes one of the guards with him, and after they battle, he ends up battling or beating up on a succession of strange creatures living on the planet, from a strange parasite called a Slorge to a beefy, skull-faced warlord and his sidekick. Unlike anything Ryan's done thematically, or really, unlike anything Fantagraphics has published before, Prison Pit is a non-stop action comic. It's pretty successful in that regard, with imaginative character designs and some surprising battles, full of many odd transformations and characters surviving the loss of limbs, even a head. And although the genre is different, Ryan can't seem to deviate from a fascinating mix of sex and violence and bodily fluids. For him, it's not so much the comics format that's limiting, but the fact the human body has no other notable fluids beyond blood, sweat, cum and vomit.

As with lots of his humor strips, there is a sense of Ryan making it up as he goes along. That's not such a bad thing--he's got a good imagination, and the the larger page count lets him control his pacing rather than having to cram all his ideas into a small space. At the same time, however, the lack of structure does cause the book to drag a bit in the middle, and one wonders how far Ryan can go with this unlikeable, unstoppable killing machine. Pretty fun for now, though.

Christopher Allen

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