Tupelo #1

Written by Matt DeGennaro
Art by Phil Elliott
32 pages, black and white
Published by Slave Labor Graphics

Every now and then, strange comics show up in my mailbox. There’s something great about it, to be honest. You open up an envelope, find a book you’ve never heard of before, sit down to read it, and discover that it’s absolutely fantastic. In the case of Tupelo from Slave Labor Graphics, that’s exactly what happened.

Two tourists are looking for a good time in New York City. What they find instead is a former punk band called Famous Monsters, whose lead singer Captain Tupelo has a little drinking problem. You see, he really can’t hold his liquor: when he drinks, very bad things happen. Good thing his bandmate the 11 O’Clock Man is there with the heroin to keep him going. Only who’s trying to eliminate Famous Monsters… again?

I don’t think I’ve ever encountered Matt DeGennaro’s work before, but I like what I see. DeGennaro does a great job of mixing the underground punk scene with strange superpowered conspiracies, a combination that really shouldn’t have worked at all. There’s a lot of mystery here, but DeGennaro unfolds it in such a way that you want to find out more and quickly. The 11 O’Clock Man and Captain Tupelo come across as less of an entry point for the readers as the tourists, but with that said if the future issues just focused directly on these two as protagonists I’d be happy. They’re a nice duo to follow, with 11 O’Clock Man as more serious and knowledgeable, but Captain Tupelo’s happy and carefree attitude makes a perfect balance.

I’ve always liked Phil Elliott’s art ever since I first encountered it in Bluebeard, and this is no exception. Like Paul Grist (who he’s collaborated in the past), Elliott’s art has a nice, rounded look to it. It’s almost like if the cast of Tintin grew up and entered the modern age, with the same approach that Herge had towards character designs, keeping it simple but never mistaking that for an excuse to not put all of your effort into the art. All of Tupelo has an understated look to it, making you really feel like you’re in a dingy club in the Village watching the events unfold. I don’t know how Elliott does it, but I wish he’d teacher other artists his secret.

Tupelo #1 was a pleasant surprise from start to finish. I have no idea where the book’s going, but I really want to find out. Complete with a nice cliffhanger, everything about the book works and I can’t help but hope that others discover Tupelo as well. Even better, it’s the first chapter of a collected work which is now available. I know what I need to get my hands on immediately.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com

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