(Stefano Cardoselli / Stephen Nelson / Bram Meehan)
Okay. Any comic that begins with a splash page featuring a huge muscly masked man chainsawing the back of another man's head -- blood splatter mixing with spittle, both characters' tongues hung out and quivering in orgasmic revery -- displaying a prominent text box that reads, “They say I wasn't right in the head” is not worried about wearing its intentions on its sleeve.
Then again, Walk is a Stefano Cardoselli comic, and Cardoselli has never been one for the subtle touch. Teaming up with writer Stephen Nelson here, though, he takes the term “ultraviolence” to a new level and, while it may not be politically correct for me to say this, that new level happens to be pretty fucking great.
I know this is a sensitive issue nowadays. The preponderance of horrific imagery in media has not only fueled the already nuclear fire of Conservative groups who bemoan a lost social innocence and live in gated communities, but has also given pause to Progressives as they contemplate the fallout of Sandy Hook and Georgia Tech and Columbine. While gun politics is a contact sport nowadays, both sides tend to agree that images such as the opening page of Walk add little to the game except penalty flags.
Walk is both a glorification and a commentary. Its “ultraviolence” is as much Burgess as it is vicarious. Cardoselli and Nelson are taking a familiar story, “mindless televised violence” as “the last surviving art form. A dying society's final means of catharsis” – you know, that whole Hunger Games schtick – and have injected it with 1,000 cc's of pineal gland extract. It is too much, and, by being too much, it is just the right amount.
In his introduction to Will Eisner's Life on Another Planet, James Morrow writes, “Under certain conditions, exaggeration is the only way to make things clear.” That is exactly what Walk is all about. Through its brutality and barbarity and brutishness, Walk talks to us about disparity and malaise, disquietude and inequality. As the Middle Class erodes in America, what thoughts begin to occupy the disenfranchised? Is our entertainment more instructional than we are willing to admit? Is revolution in the air? Does Walk point to an inevitable outcome unless something is done to enact real social change?
Walk is the story of Garrotte, “a living mountain of muscle and angst,” who must take the long walk to the top of the seventeen story Tower of Justice, “where hundreds of condemned criminals fight to the death daily in glorious prime time.” He does so to gain his freedom. Garrotte is one of those who “lives on the ground,” and he and his ilk are perpetually stomped on by those “in the high towers”. Violence is his only means of salvation and Garrotte is awfully good at violence.
And so is Cardoselli. Once again this artist shows he commands the blood splatter. His panels and pages are filled with so much information and movement and power that it is impossible not to check your clothes for stains after each turn.
Through Killer Clowns and talking Monkeys, Mad Mungo and His Emasculators, the Freight Train of Fratricide known as Razor Head, all the way to Big Daddy Death, Garrotte climbs the tower seeking freedom, seeking justice, seeking something other than resignation. Cardoselli captures it all in washes of red and thick black ink. As he does so, he holds up this fun-house mirror to ourselves, to our world, to what is happening and what may be yet to come.
And it's shuddering and it's violent and it's awesome because of it.