We’re a bit late to the party with Pop Kill, the awesome crowd funded series from industry heavyweights Jimmy Palmiotti (Painkiller Jane, Harley Quinn) and Dave Johnson (100 Bullets) which is funding its final two issues on Kickstarter now. Like the world of warring soda companies it is set in this is a high energy sweet treat for adults only, but will this finale keeping bubbling to the end or will it go flat?.
Publisher: Jimmy Palmiotti
Writer: Dave Johnson, Jimmy Palmiotti
Artist: Juan Santacruz, Brian Reber, Sean Konot
Price: Currently funding on Kickstarter
Pop Kill is set in a world where two rival fizzy drinks companies will do anything for market supremacy. This is in part because they are run by two warring brothers (who used to be conjoined twins) and will literally do anything to succeed – including hire corporate fixer Jon Pyle. Pyle is a mix of black ops hitman and gentleman spy, and is repaying his debt to Popso Cola for having a fling with the boss’ mistress. However when he is tasked with seducing scientist Dina Delux (who has just discovered the secret to everlasting fizz) then it sets in motion an avalanche of double crosses and explosive corporate sabotage.
While the idea of warring soda companies may sound a bit like something from a Willy Wonka spin off, this is anything but a kids book! As you would expect from writers with the pedigree of Palmiotti and Johnson, they revel in the gritty adult world of corporate espionage and violence and deliver a high impact and intricate action thriller. Whether it is the surreal story of the warring conjoined brothers, or the high impact raids which feel like something from a John Woo movie, this is indie comic book story telling turned up to 11. It also has a lot of James Bond elements to it, with Pyle using bombs and traps built around Cola products which give it a darkly comic edge.
It reminded us a lot of Mark Millar’s Wanted with its frenetic pace and violent action scenes, (and even a bit of Kingsman with it’s old school spy feel) and the visuals from Juan Santacruz continue that comparison, as his style feels quite like JG Jones’ work. He has a very ‘Big Two House Style’ to his work, which means it has a slickness and polish to it that really makes the most of every scene and is backed up with awesome colouring from Brian Reber (and some truly amazing covers from big names like Adam Hughes, Amanda Connor and even Johnson himself). However it does feel a little stiff in places and doesn’t quite have the dynamism or pace that some contemporary indie books have. At least with this slightly restrained style it does stop it from going completely over board and manages to stop the blood and guts from overshadowing the actual story.
This old school/throwback feel to the visuals, also extends to a slightly negative portrayal of it’s female characters. Pyle feels very much modelled in the classic James Bond mould, surrounding himself with guns, fast cars and glamorous girls – all of which feels quite old fashioned in 2020. (As do some of the more ‘Jim Lee in the 1990s visuals’). We would like to assume this is intended to be done in a very smart and knowing way, and the book is layered in irony, however it feels like quite a thin layer, as it does have a very unreconstructed, masculine core to the whole story. While Dina Delux is an attempt at a strong female lead, she is still very much second fiddle to Pyle and is the only notable female character in the whole thing – unless you count the scantily clad love objects or drowning naked mistresses.
So as long as you can accept that this isn’t the most progressive of reads, Pop Kill is a lot of fun. It is a high-energy, all-action, albeit very masculine, spy thriller – and if that’s what floats your boat, then you can’t go wrong! It’s packed with more fizzing action and sparkling dialogue than a supermarket multi-pack, and it never goes flat, even with the final sip. However a bit like those fizzy drinks, it’s a bit sickly if you have too much, but as a delicious treat it really hits the spot!