Wrong Way #2 Punk Rock Meets Slice of Life – A Match Made In Hardcore Heaven?
By: CHUCK SUFFEL
Let’s open this up with a quote from my review of Wrong Way #1. “I don’t usually like “slice of life” comics. There, I said it. Slice of life comics can be the most boring, insipid, trite works you’ll ever read. Unless they’re done right. Wrong Way: An American Punk Story #1 does it right.”
Sounds like hyperbole? Trust me this book is so contrary to the mainstream it takes a moment to digest. I feel I can say with total confidence that Martin Dunn has taken a “slice of life” story and turned it into what can only be described as a bipolar action movie. We get Trey’s present life in drab black and white juxtaposed with the vibrant colored craziness of his flashbacks to what he understandably considers the last time he felt alive. Using a combination of color with black and white isn’t ground breaking, but using it to highlight not only times in Trey’s life but also to call attention to his slippery mental state (including a very cool special artist contribution in “red wash”) is quite honestly brilliant.
In issue #1 we’re hanging with Trey. He’s in the midst of what could only be described as holiday hell, a father who thinks he’s a loser, a wife who keeps emasculating him and a slightly apologetic but wholly ineffectual mother when it all becomes too much. He finally snaps, jumps in his car for a drive, leaving his wife, Madison, to celebrate Thanksgiving alone at his parent’s house. Dunn’s liberal use of lyrics from some of the staples of punk rock just solidifies the kind of trip Trey is on He drives to a convenience store and there on the cover of the newspaper he sees his ex Allie in a crowd shot at an Occupy Wall Street protest. She is the embodiment of everything he wishes was different in his life. When he met her he was punk, crazy, free, alive. We know right then and there what’s going to happen next. But not as quick as you might think.
Issue #2 wastes no time putting us right back into the story, Trey is on the road to the convention he’s expected at, leaving Thanksgiving dinner and his wife’s calls behind him. When he finally does speak to Madison we are treated to one of the most arresting sequences in this issue. If you’ve ever had the “pleasure” of being really sure everyone and everything was against you this page will give you goosebumps, the reader is simultaneously made to feel what Trey is going through while knowing full well that he’s losing his grip on reality. And it doesn’t get easier for our hero. Every situation he encounters triggers another flashback to that time in his life he misses so desperately. It’s a feeling I think anyone past the age of reason can relate to. We leave things behind, good and bad, but the in the rear view mirror it all seems so much better back there. And even when all the people he interacts with giving advice to the contrary of what he’s considering we can feel the almost gravitational pull the memories of Allie are having on him.
Issue #2 is definitely quicker, smoother, slightly more frenetically paced than the first and that makes perfect sense considering where Trey is in his story. He’s off his meds, he’s ditched his wife and family, and obviously on the edge of making choices that may change everything. I think I’ve found a new favorite genre, Punk/Drama/Action-Adventure. I’m definitely along for the ride, I want to see where Trey winds up.
Just like issue #1 Cori Walters art plays a huge role in Wrong Way #2. The subtle changes in style between the past and the present, as well as the juxtaposition of color sequences (colors done by Dustin Orazi and Aljosa Tomic) interwoven with those in black and white, are a perfect example of how to use this medium in new and interesting ways. In that same vein special guest artist Dee Fish’s contribution was gorgeous, disturbing, Immediately I realized that a story that had two visual layers up to that point had just been given a third, I hope we see more of that in issues to come.
And when (not if, when) you pick up Wrong Way #2 make sure you flip to the end and check out the playlist Martin provided, Misfits, Bad Religion, Nirvana, Minor Threat, Fugazi, and a bunch more. Don’t worry if you need a little refresher on the lyrics, letterer Justin Birch provided snippets of lyrics throughout the book that beg to be sung along with. The music works, the playlist is as engaging as the story and together they really give you the full experience.
Here’s the youtube playlist I put together that I just can’t stop playing:
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