Ballistic, Black Mask Studios
What if it turned out that our phobia of global overconsumption was just one more arrogant fantasy of our influence? We foresee a world without rainforests, or even trees, at the same time we imagine it being overrun by our concrete creations. But we may just be preparing our own replacement, and repositioning ourselves in the natural order of foodchains and endless crosslinks.
Meanwhile we think reality has collapsed indoors, with all of us isolated at our computer screens and only intangible worlds being created without end. But the dreamworld of Ballistic is internal in the most visceral way — the flying cars we always thought technology would grant us have literal wings and eyes, and ductwork for utilities is a series of actual veins and nerve paths and digestive tubes.
We may have screwed the genuine forest primeval but meanwhile we were letting genetic patenting run rampant, and the tangled jungle architecture of Ballistic’s fictional “city state” looks like part of one big planetary wilderness implant. Before we had computers to fantasize on, we imagined they’d take over the world; instead they permeated it, and since we are the world, they got absorbed, incorporated, in ear buds and tiny portable windows; we’re one big planetary cyborg-hive at the moment, and Ballistic does the same for our global body politic as computers have done for our communal brain.
With hormones and steroids and implants and nanopills and designer pets and biofuels and frankenfoods there’s no reason not to assume that our biological landscape won’t become as adaptable as our virtual space has morphed; no one-dimensional megavirus wiping everything out but animal, vegetable and mechanical ever-exchanging in a supermarketplace of bright and dark ideas.
So in Ballistic we get a world of cross-species surrogate pet motherhood and cloned cannibal fast-food and talking appliances and gene-spliced weapons and cars that may not be smart but are damn-sure sentient, a history mixtape of sorcerous familiars and smartmouth Flintstones dinosaur-forklifts and kids’-show playhouse furniture-friends and everything else we ever imagined, thought we saw or wished for uncarefully. Plus the inflated sense of possibility that comes with it in a futurescape of leisure-addicted partiers and would-be gangsters trying to get rich yesterday. We spent twenty years thinking the economy was about information, but we crave the physical, be it a drug to snort or a bank to rob or a chic were-tiger to mutate into; the heart and spleen and esophagus and ass want what they want, and in Ballistic’s world they can tell you themselves.
The ganglia of story and idea-strands set up here, like the Earth-looping network of internet threads, multiplies and accelerates connections, and the synapse-fire in writer Adam Egypt Mortimer’s writing is Warren Ellis crossed with Joe Casey spliced with something no one’s ever seen or read the label to. In a real world where the future falls back for us to crash into and even William Gibson and George Saunders have stopped even trying to outpace it, Mortimer comes up with concepts that keep us one step ahead and five minutes from now. Artist Darick Robertson’s dense, pulsing system of textures and familiar alien settings and pocket-cthulhu items of the absurdist everyday is a thing with a life of its own, the best he’s ever done, in a career already made of legend.
No other book this year has made me more excited for what the medium is capable of. Ballistic is a comic with a brain, and I never want it to stop talking.