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Mesmo Delivery
posted December 17, 2008


Creators: Rafael Grampa, Marcus Penna, Rafa Coutinho, Ivan Brandon
Publishing Information: Self-Published (I think) and Distributed by AdHouse Books, comic book with a narrow spine, 56 pages, 2008, $12.50
Ordering Numbers: 8560018034 (ISBN10)

It's not that I particularly ever wanted to see a comic that somehow managed to make me not feel ridiculous to suggest its art blends elements of work from Geof Darrow, Don Simpson, Tanino Libratore and Dave Cooper, but now that it's happened I'm quite glad for the experience. Rafael Grampa's short story about an encounter on the road between two couriers and a group of oddball, passing-through toughs and hangers-on plunges full-bore into the intoxicating mix of body fluids and bone-shattering gore that many of the first wave of macho, ready-to-be-a-movie independent comics from this decade merely danced around. It offers the same discombobulating feeling that one must have felt moving from John Ford and John Wayne to Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood, from Lee Marvin to Sonny Chiba. Grampa draws the waves of horrific violence not like he'd be happy to perpetrate it, the way antiseptic violence in American superhero comics sometimes feels, but as if he delights in the wicked beauty of its existence, if only at a remove.

One hopes that Grampa's potency as an action artist and general displayed effectiveness as a fight choreographer (a highly undervalued skill) doesn't keep readers from noticing several of the work's subtleties. Grampa is as good with keeping visual interest during a conversation in a truck cab as he is with the overt action, rolling the reader's eyes through that physical space in assured fashion. I like a throwaway panel where the owner of the local bar/rest stop has set up his chair to watch a fight as much as I enjoy any of the splashier moments. Letterer Rafa Coutinho switches between standard lettering effects and full-on graphic flourishes and archaic type in an appropriately flashy way that made me think it was the artist performing that task. I also very much enjoyed a page with what looks like the devil himself looking up with encouragement from below the ground over which one of our protagonists drags a body. That's the kind of thing that tends to turn off a lot of more somber fans of violent drama. Here it not only brings a more gonzo element into the story, but brings into question the tableau's meaning. Is that the eventual goal, the eventual client? Is that the hidden portrait of the character himself? Is that what one of the actors may be thinking? It's the page of a confident artist.

It's difficult not to overpraise a book like Mesmo Delivery because it works its territory with dogged fury and stands stories above a lot of clumsier, less imaginative comics of the same general type. It is a slight story to the point where you'd like a word that meant a more potent version of "slight." It may be more of a calling card than a summary statement, if you catch my meaning; it simultaneously exists as a story exercise and a story. There are character elements (the lead's Elvis fixation), design elements (the lunatic-level body shape of one of the leads) and plot points (the never-seen MacGuffin of what's in the cargo bay) that never transcend their respective cliches. Still, as a shot across the bow of the lazier and less gifted, Mesmo Delivery may be just as frightening as its paroxysms of violence, as portentous as it is potent.