You wait months for a new Panel Syndicate book and all it takes is a global pandemic and suddenly we get two in quick succession. Joining Ed Brubaker’s Friday on the pay-what-you-want platform is Bad Kharma, a buddy comedy about PTSD and a wrongful murder.
Publisher: Panel Syndicate
Writer: Alex De Campi
Artist: Ryan Howe, Dee Cuniffe
Price: Name your Price
The idea of a comedy about PTSD might not sound like barrel of laughs but Alex de Campi does an excellent job of balancing this serious topic with making a fun and engaging comic. The story is built around Ethan and Sully a pair of ex-soldiers who have worked on black ops in the past and we start with the pair confessing to a death row inmate that they are responsible for a murder of which he is convicted. We then flashback in order to find out how everyone got to that situation in the first place!
While this makes for a really unique concept for a story, what pushes the narrative along is the banter filled dialogue from the two main leads. There’s shades of classic buddy movies from Lethal Weapon to Bad Boys to Jay and Silent Bob and beyond. And as you would expected in this kind of buddy movie style, the pair are constantly bickering and bitching at each other with the hot head sully and the more level header Ethan make for an excellent pairing. De Campi also fleshes out the supporting cast with Sully’s wife and family making a Christmas dinner encounter particularly awkward!
Artist Ryan Howe brings the dialogue and characters to live with a clean and cartoonish style that feels a bit like David La Fuente from Archer and Armstrong – and the banter heavy tone of Bad Karma certainly continues that comparison. The fine colour work from Dee Cuniffe gives the whole thing a light airy feel to it while the lettering feels quite hand drawn and lower case to give it an informal feel.
Nestled underneath this over the top tale is a real depth though with both Ethan and Sully broken down by their time in the military. While Ethan’s is the more obvious, with his missing leg, Sully is still suffering and it adds a layer of vulnerability to what could have been a pair of relatively two-dimensional characters. In the notes at the back De Campi outlines the origins of the story and how the PTSD has been at the core of the story’s development. However she still manages to balances its role in the story making it feel important without it dominating the series at the expense of the action and comedy.
Bad Karma is a fantastic buddy comedy book with a real depth and originality to it. Another really strong title from panel syndicate and a really potent read from de Campi and team.