Balls-Out Badassery: TFT Review of Prison Pit Book One by Johnny Ryan
Chapter 1 of Prison Pit, titled “Fucked,” opens with our hero, Cannibal Fuckface, being thrown from a spaceship onto a barren planet. His crimes are not mentioned. He is clad only in wrestling tights, shackles and, apparently, a mask of coagulated blood that covers most of his face. On the long fall down, CF spars with a prison guard who tumbled in with him. At first this battle seems like a quick joke, but the fight ends up lasting nearly thirty pages and is only resolved after the guard is hacked apart with his own arm and his remains urinated on and devoured.
Well there you go. That probably gives you a good idea if this over-the-top, ultra-violent, gross-out, juvenile, yet fun and hilarious book is up your alley. What else do you need to know? But read on if you’d like.
Johnny Ryan is the comic strip equivalent of a shock jock (maybe we can coin the term “vomit comic” here?). His goal seems to be to smash every bit of political correctness while simultaneously squeezing as many bodily fluids into a panel as possible. His regular comic strip, Angry Youth Comix, features such recurring characters as Boobs Pooter, Sherlock McRape and Blecky Yuckerella. Typically the comics are drawn in a crude style with bold lines and lots of a dialogue. This strip is the definition of “note for everyone,” and often it isn’t for me (though sometimes it is brilliant, such as in this recent strip).
In Prison Pit, Johnny Ryan has changed his tactics slightly. First, the focus here is not on holocaust and AIDS jokes, but purely on absurd violence. Second, the art style uses thinner lines and more detail. It has a sketchy quality that, combined with the silly violence and gore, feel like the notebook scribblings of an angsty teen during Calculus class. In a good way though.
Lastly, unlike his comic strips, which are packed with dialogue and jokes, Prison Pit is slowed down. The story—which is essentially three long boss battles separated by pages of CF walking through a post-apocalyptic wasteland and cursing to himself—is paced out judiciously. The jokes are minimal and whole pages go by without dialogue.
Don’t think this isn’t a Johnny Ryan book though. The book is still ridiculous and the fixation on bodily fluids remains. One character is perpetually vomiting, another builds an superhuman exoskeleton out of ejaculate (yes, you read that correctly). The dialogue that does exist retains his comic sense of disjunction and fights are as demented as you’d expect. This is not a jokey book, but his humor is retained in subtle ways—if you can envision subtle Johnny Ryan humor. I quite enjoyed the bluntness of his action words, which are frequently straight descriptions like “BITE” or “THROW!”
It would be tempting, and even possible, to read this as a parody of tough guy movies or a satire of comic books, but I think that would be a mistake. This is just a balls-out, funny, sicko, good time. My only complaint with Prison Pit is how quickly the story ends, but hopefully the subtitle (Book One) is a promise and not a joke.
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