Bang! Tango #1-2

Written by Joe Kelly
Penciled by Adrian Sibar
Inked by Rodney Ramos
32 pages, color
Published by Vertigo/DC Comics

There’s nothing quite like picking up a comic off the stands and realizing that you’ve never even heard of it. That’s the only way to describe the surprise of seeing Bang! Tango, Vertigo’s new mini-series about dancing and crime. If you’re as instantly intrigued by that basic idea as I am, well, you’re in for an interesting surprise. I can’t help but think that this is going to be a comic that will be remembered by those who read it for quite a while.

Vincente Ponticello isn’t just a guy who dances the tango in San Francisco, he’s quite possibly one of the best people to dance the tango in San Francisco. What he’s not telling anyone, though, is that before he moved out west, he was involved in some less than legal activities and a bit of a gangster—and now he’s in hiding from his old New York associates, making sure to never go back east. Then Autumn shows up, the girl who got away, and she’s desperate for him to recover some pictures that are being used for blackmail. But even on the other side of the country, Vincente’s about to learn that you can never really go home again.

Bang! Tango is a perfect example of using the combination of sex and violence to keep a story from ever getting dull. At a glance, Bang! Tango does seem like a fairly straightforward story; first about two dancers trying to make it big, then about someone trying to avoid his past. It never gets dull, though, perhaps in part because he’s found just the right balance between sex and violence in this book; as soon as one element is about to overstay its welcome, he shifts over to the other. Also, when I say "sex" I’m not automatically referring to the act itself. In Bang! Tango, all sorts of things are sensual and collar-loosening, from Vincente’s girlfriend Melina yelling about Vincente missing practice, to Autumn’s dramatic entrance into Vincente’s class, and most importantly the tango itself. Kelly clearly understands in this mini-series how the tango if done properly is almost like a clothed version of sex, and it really comes across in the writing that way; if it wasn’t for the violence part of this mini-series, tango schools should be giving copies of this comic away to drum up business.

Best of all, Kelly works the slow reveal in Bang! Tango. This is the sort of story where around the two-thirds mark of each issue, Kelly casually reveals another piece of information that changes the thrust of the story. So far, I’m pretty pleased with how he’s handling these surprises. They’ve both been ones that logically wouldn’t have been spelled out on the first page, and each of the revelations has suddenly made all the characters in the book that much more interesting. This certainly isn’t your average set of characters or mob story, and it’s all of these little twists that make me all the more eager to read future issues; I suspect Kelly’s still got some more surprises up his sleeve.

The one thing for me that isn’t quite hitting the mark where it should, though, is the art. It’s funny, because with one exception, I think Adrian Sibar is doing just great. Vincente, Melina, and Autumn all come across as different sorts of sexy and glamorous. Sibar’s pencils and Rodney Ramos’s inks create a general sort of slick, almost oily look to the pages that is a smart fit for this sort of story focusing on sex and violence. And when it comes to the actual violence, I’ve been pretty impressed with Sibar. Vincente kicking someone in front of a street car, for instance, just felt fluid and right to me, especially since we already know that Vincente’s an accomplished dancer and can hit those high kicks with great ease.

The one thing I’m leaving out, though, is the dance numbers. This is the only place where it seems a little flat, and I think that’s in part because they’re often visualized as a big montage of moments. There needs to be a little more pep and pizzazz in those scenes, to match what Kelly’s script is saying, and with the exception of some early individual panels in the initial dance sequence, it just isn’t hitting it for me. With a little more flair and heat, though, I think Sibar can do it. He’s certainly proved that he can draw sensual and he can draw action; now we just need the two to show up at the same time.

With Bang! Tango scheduled to run six issues, I think it’s safe to say that I have no idea just where Kelly is going next with this mini-series. He’s played enough twists and surprises already that I wouldn’t dare assume that I can see the rest of this story already mapped out. I can’t help but wonder if Hollywood has started calling in regards to film options for Bang! Tango, because this is such a lively and fun opening that I can see others being more than interested. I’ll be dancing along with Kelly and Sibar all the way to the final note.

1 comment to Bang! Tango #1-2

  • Have you ever read a manga called Swan? It’s about a ballet dancer, and it’s one of the wettest comics ever created. But it features spectacular, stunning dance sequences — always done in montage. So don’t knock montage as a way of showing dance.

    That said, I agree that the montage page you show here doesn’t look all that great — not as great as Swan, for sure. I think the problem is that the figure drawings are actually kind of stiff looking, as if these are mannequins. It creates a neat sort of ultra-clear effect in the kicking panel, like a moment in a Hong Kong action movie where the director slows down the film so we can see how cool a stunt is; but it’s kind of robs the dance moves of any gracefulness.