With so many big names and big events plastered across the shelves of your LCS, sometimes great comics get left behind – buried in longboxes until someone comes along to find these Hidden Gems.
Writers: Donny Cates and Mark Reznicek
Artist: Geoff Shaw
The above quote came from no less than Mark Waid. It was featured prominently on the cover of the four individual issues of Dark Horse’s Buzzkill. Waid, among many other things, is known for his series of titles examining and deconstructing the (super)human condition – Irredeemable, Incorruptable, and Insufferable. Buzzkill, even without the alliterative tie-in, would have been an excellent addition to Waid’s mythos. However, in the hands of writers Donny Cates and Mark Reznicek, artist Geoff Shaw and colorist Lauren Alfe, Buzzkill doesn’t have to be in the hands of a seasoned veteran like Waid to be a fine addition to superhero mythology as well as a fascinating parable of addiction.
Buzzkill starts out with Ruben (if that is indeed his real name) in an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. We learn that “Ruben” is a former superhero – that derived his powers from ingesting drugs. Different drugs have different effects, but “Ruben’s” main power was super-strength and invulnerability…granted to him by drinking copious amounts of alcohol. Resultantly, “Ruben” became an alcoholic and now walks a path of redemption and upholding his ideals without being able to employ the main source of his powers. The four-part story follows “Ruben” on the road to recovery and redemption, with liberal scenes of violence along the way.
Buzzkill could very easily have been a one-trick pony of comedy in the hands of less-capable creators. As hilarious as that may have been there would have been some greatly missed potential that Cates and Reznicek (drummer for the Toadies) pick up on. What may have been a paper-thin premise becomes a tale of redemption and an honest look at addiction and amends. Buzzkill paints a stark and accurate portrayal of a recovering alcoholic and the Twelve Steps used to recover from that illness in the Alcoholic Anonymous program. From the constant presence of coffee even to the “sobriety chip” that “Ruben” carries around, those who have dealt with alcoholism or been exposed to its effects as a result of helping someone recover will see some very real touches here.
The book is not without its fun, however, as “Ruben’s” sponsor is a hippified sorcerer known as Doctor Blaqk (and yes, there is a difference in the pronunciation, apparently). There is also a spy infiltrating the AA meetings, as well as some hijinks with the super-villain community that “Ruben” has to handle. All of it leads to “Ruben’s” attempt at redemption in which the lives of others are at stake and “Ruben” confronts how he came to be in the form of the ultimate evil. The emotional impact is difficult to explain without going full-spoiler, but the reveal of the whos and whys are worth being vague here.
The main takeaway is that Buzzkill could have easily been just passable entertainment, but instead opted to strive for – and achieve – something greater. Those who face addiction or have helped those who do will see some touching moments here, but it’s not necessary to see the emotion sprinkled in among the humor and fun of Buzzkill. The collected series, released from Dark Horse Comics on April 2 of this year, earns 4.5 out of 5 flying bears.
Dedicated to the memory of Douglas Melchor