Art by Mark Teague
Written by Mark Teague, Derek McCaw
and Mitchell Peterson
Illusive Arts Entertainment
Release Date: November 2006
Cover Price: $3.50
What exactly is reality?
Exploring what is real and what we only think is real has always been a popular topic in pop culture. In the movie The Wizard Of Oz, the great and powerful wizard is really just a carnival huckster behind a curtain and the land of Oz only a dream. In the movie The Matrix, reality is manufactured by souless machines. In Neil Gaiman’s novel American Gods, an old man named Wednesday takes his friend Shadow “behind the scenes” of reality — and Shadow discovers a giant mechanical spider “search engine” squatting over small piles of flaming bones.
The nature of reality is also explored in the amazing, new comic book Tony Loco by Mark Teague and Derek McCaw. Tony Loco is a pudgy, 20-something man confined to a mental hospital. But he sees the staff as demons, remembers his childhood as a pursuit by wolves and has a social worker with a “pandora’s box” into his past that may or may not be real.
But a simple plot summary doesn’t do justice to Teague and McCaw’s impressive work. There is a splash page featuring an ominous armored figure looming over a valley of shadowy wolves behind a crumbling barb-wire fence that is as impressive as any comic art I’ve seen in the last five years. The scenes of a rust-colored sky above a decaying desert village are absolutely spectacular.
And this is all neatly contrasted with the simply drawn scenes within the mental hospital. The art ranges from simple and cartoony to detailed and expressive. The layouts are precise and move the story along effortlessly. This is the kind of artist craftsmanship that is so often absent from independent comics these days. A lot of effort was put into the art of Tony Loco and it shows.
Yet, even the best art can’t save a lame, poorly plotted story. Don’t worry — the story of Tony Loco is every bit as good as the art.
The story unfolds like an epic myth, with scenes of the past, present and maybe the future unfolding seamlessly. Making a story containing strong elements of the past blend with the present is not an easy trick. Try it sometime. Merging different time periods can really make a story choppy and digressive and grind the pace to a halt.
Yet, the story of Tony Loco never falters or stumbles. It pulls you right in and moves you along. It combines elements of drama, humor, pathos — and just about anything else you’d want in a story.
I would not be at all surprised to see Tony Loco picked up by a major publisher and become a Dark Horse or Vertigo comic. It’s THAT good. The only problem I had with the comic is that I wanted to see a lot more of it. I’ll be looking forward to the next issue and keeping an eye on Teague and McCaw’s careers. This is a great beginning and I expect we’ll see great things from this team.