Review: BUZZKILL #4

Written by Donny Cates, Mark Reznicek
Art by Geoff Shaw
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: December 18, 2013

22439Buzzkill is very powerful, very honest, and very difficult to read. The final issue is a painful, beautiful depiction of what recovery really means for people with addiction (especially alcoholism). It’s also a unique story on the very nature of heroism.

As it’s usually understood in superhero comics, where grown-ups put on capes and masks and fight bad guys, heroism is doing the right thing at the expense of your own selfish needs. Donny Cates juxtaposes this against what “the right thing” is for someone like Francis, the former superhero who gets powers from drinking and just wants to get sober. That, to me, is the centerpiece of the story, with the relationships forming the secondary ring of themes – fathers and sons, love, friendship, all that fun emotionally wrought stuff. This is a short book with a lot to say, and Cates deserves immense credit for packing so much into only four issues.

The final issue is very loud, and very fast, with only a few very quiet pauses.  I actually had to read it three times for certain moments to really sink in and crystallize in my brain. It’s a little hard to discuss without spoiling the ending, so if you want to avoid even hints (or you haven’t read the story at all yet) you should skip down to the part about the art.

I don’t know what someone with no knowledge of addiction, alcoholism or the recovery process would think of this book. I have a close family member who has been in this struggle for over a decade. Based on my experience, Francis’s transformation from the first issue to this one was very spot on, if a bit compressed for time. Recovery isn’t a thing that happens, it’s a thing you live in for the rest of your life. You could be sober for thirty years, and still be in recovery. And you have to actually want it. You have to be willing to confront very ugly truths about yourself, and you have to accept that you can’t control it. That makes Francis’s ultimate decision all the more tragic – he made the “heroic” choice for the people he loves, for the world at large (I’ve no doubt Courtland could level a city), but it was at the cost of his own hopes for the future. Sometimes, the heroes lose. Sometimes they lie.

Geoff Shaw’s art suits the story perfectly, handling the heroic battles and the bar brawls equally well. His style reminds me of a mesh of Sean Murphy (The Wake, Punk Rock Jesus) and Nick Dragotta (East of West). He conveys a lot of emotion and character in body language as well as facial expressions. The sense of movement and impact is also very strong – you feel some of those nasty punches. The final page is so haunting and simple, I found myself staring at it for several minutes before I could move on.

If you’re in recovery, or you’re close to someone who is, do yourself a favor and read this. Don’t expect catharsis. A hippie Doctor Strange, a psychotic drunk killing machine, a wish that someone be killed to death by bees; all of these things you can expect. You can also expect something pure, and smart, and beautiful, even in the sad parts.

The Verdict: 10/10


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