Created By: Camron Johnson
Written By: Camron Johnson
Illustrated By: Camron Johnson (noticing a trend, are we?)
Publisher: Broken Icon Comics
Available: From the artist directly (email him at email@example.com; include Bonecheck in the subject line) for $30 apiece +s/h (books one and two, with signature and interior sketch); book two only, unsigned is available for $20+s/h from Broken Icon Comics (here)
COVID sucks—on that, regardless of political leanings, I think we can all agree. And for some a bit more than others. In the realm of the comics industry, it particularly sucks for younger creators who were looking to launch themselves or their new projects this spring, who let’s say had a slew of regional comicon appearances set up to promote their new book, only one of which they were actually able to attend. And who committed a ton of personal, artistic and financial capital into producing same. One particular case in point, of whom we at the Pullbox are quite fond, would be Camron Johnson and his Bonecheck: Wolves of Carnival Califax.
Those who missed Paul’s fine review of Bonecheck: The Midwest Maurauder (here) may not be aware, but Camron Johnson is an outstanding up-and-coming semi-local (Peoria, or thereabouts) artist, who really deserves your attention and patronage (for proof, just ask Upper Deck and Marvel, who hired him for this project). And Bonecheck, his so-far flagship creation, is a great property to jump in on. If you’re of the adult variety, that is, and appreciate rampant, gratuitous violence and gore galore. And don’t mind the occasional AODA-infused mayhem.
You know, the usual.
So yeah, for formality’s sake: this is an adult-themed book. Like, seriously NC-17. Buyer beware.
Similar in theme to Deadpool, but orders of magnitude more chaotic and just plain effed up, Bonecheck presents us the homey tale of an unnamed bounty hunter, latest in a long ancestral line, with a bit of a bar tab issue. Only here, instead of a sleazy dive bar which was formerly a school for wayward girls run by a mercenary temp for hire agency, we’ve got a Saloon (literally, that’s the name of the joint), formerly a vaudeville-style theater with all the concomitant ghosts and drama, run by a group of fallen angels looking to make their way back into heaven…by hiring murderous mercenaries to take out the world’s evil. Our merc in question, you see, has a bit of an addiction issue. As did his father. And his father’s father. And his—etc., rinse, repeat…so he’s got quite the tab to work off.
Works out fine though, ‘cause he’s a psychotic sadist who revels in his work almost as much as he pleasures in his mind-altering substances. Think a slightly less hygienic and fantastically impulsive Dexter, without all the plastic sheeting and scrubs. Who’s going to be working forever, as every angelic good karma buck he earns, he reinvests in weapons, gear or—most frequently—booze.
With me so far? Good.
So in Volume 2, our dashing young mushroom-addled hero is tasked with assisting on service of a warrant on the Carnival Califax, a nefarious pop-up circus which seems to have altered the local climate as well as decimated its populace. After addressing Sheriff Crudbutter’s gastrointestinal distress and an hallucinogenically-driven dab-fest, the tale escalates quickly—involving demonic wolves, psychotic clowns, and toxic waste-infected semi-sentient fried foods. Oh, and taking down the Wolves of Carnival Califax, a murderous trio of carnie brothers. And finally, the most horrifying foe our fair hero has ever faced: Sheriff Crudbutter’s cantankerous wife!
Johnson’s writing in Bonecheck is all kinds of fun. Alternating form the formally uptight speech of the Alfred Pennyworth-esque angel to the guttural rants of the merc to the ‘60s Batman-esque narrator, the words are a hoot and a half, if you don’t mind all the violence. And drug and poo references. Oh, and the lettering styles (also Camron Johnson creations) are unique to each speaker, which aids in identifying voice as well as some fun art effects. And they are all accompanied by…
Johnson’s art, which is frankly so frenetic, psychedelic, out there that it’d make Andy Warhol wake up with a headache. And it’s perfect for this character, this story, this book. Johnson employs a merging of mixed media and mixed styles, which instead of disrupting the flow of the book, gives it an intermittent, machine gun fight, staccato like rhythm. It jerks, it weaves, it lurches. It works. It’s stylized enough to prevent the copious amount of, well, filth and violence from becoming too overwhelming, but realistic enough to make you pause and go “Ewww” every few panels or so. The color palette is heavily shadowed, bombastic oranges, yellows and reds where it ought to be, and psychedelic blues, greens and purples where else it ought to be, and…other colors where they should probably never be.
I’ll warn you, Bonecheck is not your standard comic reading. It is bizarre, gloriously messed up and highly entertaining, if you’re looking for a nice twist of Quentin Tarantino with your Clive Barker. Blended in globs, with a handful of roofing nails.
So there you have it. If’n you’re interested, you can purchase copies of both the first and second volume of Bonecheck directly from Camron Johnson himself by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org, including “Bonecheck” in the subject line; he’s selling them for $30 apiece (plus shipping), with a cool sketch and signature on the inside cover (they’d make super groovy wedding gifts). He’s also taking commissions, so you can talk at him about that, as well. Alternatively, you can order an untouched copy of Wolves of Carnival Califax from Broken Icon Comics (here) for $20 (plush shipping).
Tell either of them that Andy and the Pullbox sent you and…well, they’ll probably be very confused, but somewhere in the world, I’ll feel good about it.
Score: 11 (of 13)
Review by Andy Patch, Contributing Editor