2010, Slave Labor Graphics
Story, Art: James Turner
Wander through Covent Garden or Soho for more than ten minutes and you’ll likely pass one of several stores selling little collectible vinyl models; hyper-stylised toys for adults that are generally produced in limited quantities and act as showcases for their creator’s design prowess. Warlord of Io is set in a universe populated entirely by such bizarre creations, a menagerie of adorably oddball characters that each deserve to make their way to a T-Shirt, model or similar merchandise.
The book follows video game obsessed halfwit Zing, whose hedonistic father abruptly retires and leaves him the keys to the Ion Empire. Zing is content to let his people rule themselves until Moxy Comet; his friend and Io’s very own Lisa Simpson, convinces him to cut the Ion Space Force budget in half. This doesn’t go down too well with the warmongering General Grymak, who seizes the opportunity to stage a coup against Zing, initiating a race across space as Zing and Moxy are accused of treason and pursued by Ion’s vast fleet.
Zing is a loveable, good-natured buffoon, and the cast of bizarre aliens often look as though they’ve been teleported in from entirely different universes and are all the more the endearing for it. James Tuner (Rex Libris, Nil: a Land Beyond Belief) uses gradient-shaded vector-based graphics to create an art style that’s perhaps best described as a static cartoon. Whether the black & white direction came from choice or necessity I do not know, but it gives the book a 50s Flash Gordon charm, complete with talking rayguns, plump retro spaceships and spherical architecture.
This has to be one of the few examples of a comic narrative so relentless that it left me gasping for air – okay, not literally, but I did need to take several breaks while reading it. James Turner so enthusiastically piles on the laughs, memorable characters (many of whom meet hilarious ends) and increasingly preposterous action scenes that I frequently found myself longing for just one quiet moment. Zinc and company were first seen in Warlord of Io and Other Stories, an anthology of wacky shorts from Turner’s immensely creative mind, and the book definitely works better when consumed in smaller portions.
Warlord of Io is a genuinely funny and inventive comic for all ages, and harks back to a time when comics were purely intended to be enjoyed, rather than analysed by miserable gits like me. The laughs come thick and fast, and Turner’s terrific art defies comparison to any other comic artist I can think of.