Dharma Punks #1 (of 8)

Posted: Wednesday, May 9, 2001
By: Darren Schroeder

Cover of Dharma Punks #1 (of 8) Creator(s): Ant Sang
From: New Zealand
Price: ???

After a long absence from the comic scene in New Zealand, Ant is looking to make an worthy comeback with this serious minded return to the characters from his earlier mini comics. In A5 format the first 40 pages takes itself very seriously, should anyone else?

Plot wise the Dharma Punks focuses on Chop-Stick, an ethic Chinese male who inhabits cafes. He recalls to the reader the events of his late teenage/early adult years when he was an anarchist/punk who played in a band, wore black and hung out in a grave yard with his friends. His recollections centre on an event which appears to have heralded an end to that stage in his life: a plot to sabotage the opening of a generic multi-national fast food outlet with some well placed bombs.

The characters as portrayed are not immediately likeable. There is is a self indulgent air about their earnest railing against the bland corporate world which makes their conformity to the stereotypical codes of Goth/punk seem quite naive. They wear the "right" clothes, have the "right" piercings and listen to the "right" alternative music. Just once I'd like to see some rebels attack the multinational corporations that make guitars, amplifiers or help distribute black leather boots.

The personality clashes, infatuations and awkwardness that Stick felt heavily at that time are portrait succinctly; there is a palpable sense of unease in this comic. Ant's skill with brush and ink produces a richly detailed look which is similar in style to Paul Pope's work, but Ant works with a tighter focus so the narrative is never lost in large, self-indulgent illustrations. The panels stay with the narritive, examining Stick and his friends.

The time and effort that Ant has put into this work pays off in some imaginative layouts and a well constructed approach to telling his story. These qualities mean that the overly solemn tone of the introduction can be forgiven. It will be interesting to see where Ant is taking Stick and the readers in this series and how he deals with the internal contradictions of his characters.

In a Word: Measured.

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