The world of comics is vast, offering up all kinds of distinct adventures and characters in just about every genre. Even with so much competition, The Ludocrats, a new series published by Image Comics, somehow still finds a voice and tone all its own, and lives up to its name—charting a course in story and humor that is entirely unique. Writers Kieron Gillen and Jim Rossignol are clearly having the time of their lives writing these characters. Artist Jeff Stokely, colorist Tamra Bonvillain, and letterer Clayton Cowles seem just as enthused in creating vivid, imaginative surroundings that immerse readers ever further into this wild world. That said, it won't speak to every audience, and for some might be a bit confusing and, perhaps, a little too eccentric.
To get you up to speed, The Ludocrats follows Baron Otto Von Subertan and Professor Hades, two friends who behave at times like an old married couple; you can always see just how much affection they have for one another. To be fair, you'd have to care for someone quite a bit to stick around when they wear a blood gown, and yes, it is exactly what it sounds like.
The comic introduces a world where normal is the enemy and being ludicrous is mandatory. The more oddball and over-the-top you are the better, and you can be arrested for being boring. It's a fascinating premise, and Gillen and Rossignol have a lot of fun with it with sequences like a wedding that doubles as a beheading and showcasing law enforcement against the boring.
Those are the main two instances where the book focuses on the premise, as the rest of the issue relies on the chemistry and joyful banter between Otto and Hades. The two are comedy gold together, and there are several laugh out loud moments throughout the issue, especially whenever the topic of a romantic interest for Otto happens to come up.
The art team of Jeff Stokely and Tamra Bonvillain must be commended on simply superb pages. You believe in this oddball world because of the vivid colors and stylized designs—Otto and Hades, in particular, are delightfully larger than life. The brief action sequences utilize all of those elements to great effect as well, and I can't wait to see this duo continue to cut loose in future issues.
For all the good the book has going for it, there are a few things holding it back. Right after the opening sequence, the comic leaps into the world without much context or rules. You understand why the ceremony is happening, but when Otto goes off on the groom, you don't really understand why he's so upset or his role in this society. The same disoriented feeling returns later in the issue as Otto and Hades talk about the Hyper-Pope and its effect on society. The unconventional dialogue featured occasionally has an adverse effect on those sequences, cluttering things and pushing readers away, rather than immersing them.
These are small qualms, however, and the issue does far more right than it does wrong. The Ludocrats is always bold and has a ball with its premise, and when everything works in sync it makes for a delightful adventure. Sometimes it gets bogged down in its own eccentricity, though the visuals still ensure even those parts of the comic are well worth witnessing. Otto and Hades are magic together, and I cannot wait to see what else they can do.
Published by Image Comics
On May 20, 2020
Written by Kieron Gillen and Jim Rossignol
Art by Jeff Stokely
Colors by Tamra Bonvillain
Letters by Clayton Cowles
Cover by Jeff Stokely