PUBLISHER Laddsville Entertainment WRITER John Franklin; Tim Sulka AVAILABLE Now
Co-authored by John Franklin and Tim Sulka, the inaugural episode of Prime Cuts introduces the reader to antihero Todd Sweeney, a reformed inmate from the Cosmetology Prison for Troubled Boys, who sifts through a “sea of scum” to execute his revenge on “the man he hated the most.”
This satirical saga of retribution seems to lament on notions of morality, consumption and global responsibility, but fails to offer a protagonist who symbolises a juxtaposition to corruption itself.
Like Frank Miller’s Sin City or James O’Barr’s The Crow, Prime Cuts is contextualised by a polluted society, engulfed by drug addiction, unpunished violence, sexual exploitation, ravaged resources and nationwide poverty; similarly, it is also defined by the corruption-cleansing protagonist, who professes: “Barbers were also bloodletters. Excess toxins had to be released. It was the only way to get rid of the poison, the disease that permeated society.” What differentiates characters like Marv and Eric Draven from Todd Sweeney, however, is that, despite their unlawful means, there is morality at the heart of their actions. Sweeney seems almost indistinguishable from the heels that he targets, but that doesn’t mean that societal morality isn’t important to both our authors.
Franklin and Sulka’s work on the Children of the Corn franchise (they notably co-penned Children of the Corn 666, while the former also starred as cult preacher Isaac Chroner in the 1984 classic), can explain why the themes of nefarious youth and traditional moral values are both explored in Prime Cuts.
In Stephen King’s original short story on which Children of the Corn is based, found in Night Shift, a radio sermon warns: “Atonement is the word […] There’s some that think it’s okay to get out in the world, as if you could work and walk in the world without being smirched by the world. Now is that what the word of God teaches us?”
When Sweeney attempts to ‘work and walk in the world’, he is exploited and punished, allowing us to treat Prime Cuts as a similar critique of modern society; his problematic ethics still prevent us, however, from categorising this graphic novel as a straightforward fable of moral vindication.
In short, Prime Cuts declines to surpass proverbial pop culture soup in its debut, but I am curious to observe where the proceeding volumes take this detailed, if somewhat fragmented, universe.
The rawly sketched artwork of Rob Gutman (which is evocative of Eddie Campbell’s in From Hell) complements the abstract plot line, which will please the exploitation and pulp fiction aficionado, despite its lack of depth.