Best Shots Review: GASOLINA #1 'A Terrific Debut' (9/10)

Gasolina #1 variant
Credit: Lorenzo De Felici (Image Comics/Skybound)
Credit: Niko Walter (Image Comics/Skybound)

Gasolina #1
Written by Sean Mackiewicz
Art by Niko Walter and Mat Lopes
Lettering by Rus Wooton
Published by Image Comics
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Gasolina is complex in its simplicity, or perhaps its the other way around. Set in and around the Mexican drug wars, Skybound’s Sean Mackiewicz is the first to acknowledge that this is hardly new thematic ground. Yet the writer’s point of difference comes in his focus, looking at the little people caught in the middle of what he refers to as the "mega murders" of the cartels. It’s also about flesh-eating bugs.

Credit: Niko Walter (Image Comics/Skybound)

Newlyweds and fugitives Amalia and Randy are doing everything they can to lead a simple life south of the border. Yet they are rapidly drawn into the search for a missing child, and once again under the thumb of a cartel boss. Here Mackiewicz establishes two things: his leads have some seriously capable and adaptable skills to survive, and there is something more sinister than trafficking lurking beneath the surface.

Mackiewicz wastes very little time in establishing the bloody new tactics of the Cartel, in a launch issue that is practically dripping with sweat, blood, sex, and death cults, often within a few panels of each other. From the start, it is clear that this is going to be more than just another Narcos, although it unquestionably shares some DNA with that entire genre. Foreshadowing the nastier elements from the opening page, grisly decapitations are pages away from graphic nudity, showcasing that his leads are not just "one thing."

Credit: Niko Walter (Image Comics/Skybound)

As a debut issue, Mackiewicz spends most of his pages establishing the broad parameters of his characters and weaving what looks to be a complex web. Amalia has a network of civilians she is close to, for example, and a plethora of clues and factoids are dropped about the lay of the land. For now it is merely a whiff of a larger pie, but Mackiewicz gives us plenty of reasons to sink our teeth in for a bigger bite.

Credit: Niko Walter (Image Comics/Skybound)

Greatly aiding this immersion is the art of Niko Walter and Mat Lopes, who use a lot of long, thin, horizontal panels to create a cinematic feel to the pages. Indeed, most of the layouts are designed to hasten our pace through the book, save for the moments that the creative team wants to stop us in our tracks. The aforementioned decapitations are on a page filled with three large panels, forcing us to stop and soak it in whether we want to or not. Mostly shaded in the earthy and dusty tones of the surrounding fields, it’s like we are perpetually on the cusp sundown.

In the back-matter to the book, Mackiewicz describes his book as an “attempt to process real world horror, centuries of it, magnify it through genre, and learn from it.” In this sense, we have something akin to Scalped but with a more genre-specific edge to it, one that is yet to reveal the full depth of its twists and turns. A terrific new debut that feels all at once highly topical and timeless.

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