Best Shots Review: PUNK MAMBO #5

Punk Mambo #5
Credit: Adam Gorham (Valiant Entertainment)
Credit: Dan Brereton (Valiant Entertainment)

Punk Mambo #5
Written by Cullen Bunn
Art by Adam Gorham and Jose Villarubia
Lettering by Dave Sharpe
Published by Valiant Entertainment
'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

Credit: Adam Gorham (Valiant Entertainment)

In Punk Mambo #5, Cullen Bunn and Adam Gorham aim to close out their first story arc with a supernatural bang as their mystical protagonist goes up against self-made demi-god Azaire in a contest to determine who’s the baddest of the Valiant Universe’s voodoo powers. The story ties together just enough threads to give readers a sense of closure all the while leaving one or two strands loose for future arcs to address. Although the resolution to the conflict never really came across as a surprise, fans of Punk Mambo or mystical-action adventure stories will appreciate her blunt approach to solving problems and saving the day.

Bunn’s showdown in this final issue ends up being a pretty simply fistfight: first, Punk Mambo takes on the vicious Uncle Gunnysack, and second, she ends the battle with taking out Azaire himself. The fight becomes almost secondary, however, as the reader finds the last battle as an opportunity to explore the “punk” in Punk Mambo. When questioned why she rebels against her humanity, Mambo explains that her anger serves as a driving force behind her sense of what it means to be human. On one hand, this serves to provide logic for her “punk attitude” – while seemingly divorcing herself from society, it’s actually a shared commonality between herself and those around her, including her readers.

Credit: Adam Gorham (Valiant Entertainment)

On the other hand, the series as a whole doesn’t offer very much in the way of reasons for why Punk Mambo holds onto so much anger beyond this broader connection. What happened to make her feel this way? This may prove fruitful territory to explore in future arcs, but for this story where it serves as the catalyst for her freeing the other loa (spirits) from Azaire’s control, it was a question that newer readers would not have an answer for by the end. Nonetheless, readers do walk away from this scene having learned a little more about Punk Mambo, and after having heard from those whom she previously used – not so unlike Azaire himself – Bunn guides his protagonist into learning a little more about herself as well.

Credit: Adam Gorham (Valiant Entertainment)

Artistically, Gorham and Villarubia’s work on art and colors provides some excellent visual storytelling. One such instance is when Punk Mambo finds her soul ripped from her body and pulled into Azaire. Readers are confronted with a truly disorienting perspective – one which mirrors the experience Mambo must have felt floating within the spirit realm. Gorham echews traditional panel arrangement and the action floats from one part of the double page spread to the next, orchestrated by Villarubia’s otherworldly colors. And thanks to Dave Sharpe’s subtle adjustments to lettering and caption boxes, readers are able to keep the conversations and interior thoughts straight in what otherwise could have proven confusing without such color and balloon changes.

Overall, readers will still find themselves asking questions about who Punk Mambo is and her place within the Valiant Universe by the story’s end, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Bunn introduces readers to the VU’s understanding of voodoo and its pantheon of demigods, all of which are wickedly brought to life by Gorham and Villarubia, and this issue certainly delivers on the promise of a paranormal punk adventure.

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