Half Empty, Since 1998

Published by DC/Vertigo. Comics highly influenced by what’s happening on the internet and CNN, Pope’s work is the Stroke’s punk-rock, it’s Presstube’s web design and it belongs to our time – post-9/11. The pages are alive with the spirit of RIGHT NOW – optimistic enthusiasm for a dirty, high-tech future. It’s the Blade Runner dystopia, paired down to realistic expectations and infused with street-style and modems you plug into your head.

Paul Pope's Heavy Liquid

Marty Spellerberg. July 19th, 2000

Seventy years in the future, a man called "S" has fallen into the middle of some complicated shit. He’s come in possession of a metal called Heavy Liquid that everyone wants, and most will kill for. He’s being chased by the government on his right, some Mafia goons on his left, and, in the middle a rich collector who wants to make it into art. Only problem is, S is predisposed to melting the shit down and pouring it in his ear!

Very much old-school noir and very much new-school cyberpunk, Heavy Liquid is an international espionage thriller casting its hero as equal part performance artist and data cowboy. Like Bond’s bastard son, S goes around taking his smack, wearing good clothes and meeting hot girls, each spunkier than the last. The drawings are dark and moody, they’re angular and hard. His Americans are of Asian and Latino blood and they’re colored with a minimal pallet of dirty blues and pinks.

The word bubbles are all circles and the dialogue is set in something that could be a Emigre-font but could also be hand-done. And scattered throughout the book are buyer’s guides, complete with addresses and prices, to prove he’s really thought this shit through.

But the book does have its flaws. Though more complex than most Pope books, the story does suffer from his dream-logic leanings; events seem to follow each other not in keeping with a grand master plan but because he likes the atmosphere the scenes create. In the end, despite its initial promise and a few very interesting ideas, the story is nothing to shake a stick at.

And the thing is bloody expensive! I don’t know what DC was thinking, but a $30 US ($50 Canadian) price tag is likely to put-off all but the most die-hard of Pope’s audience. If you can, borrow this from a friend.

If you’re not willing to spend your life savings on one trade paperback, look for some of Pope’s other work – his "One Trick Rip Off" published by Dark Horse has the same energy but suffers even more from lack of depth. And if your local shop can get their hands on them, Pope’s THB series is of special relevance to designers. Printed black and white on large-format paper, THB, like most of Pope’s stuff, makes you want to get away from the computer for a bit and see what you can do with pen and ink!

(Originally published at Pixelsurgeon, now defunct.)