August 4, 2015 by Shawn Taylor in The Nerds of Color
I can only talk about the second volume of Concrete Park, “R–E-S-P-E-C-T,” in relation to music. I wanted to use other graphic novels or films as benchmarks, but I’d be talking more about the evolution to make the book, the shift in materials and not the meta-shift I want to capture here. While I enjoy what GeekCulture has to offer, it doesn’t transform me the way that music does. There has yet to be a geek-influenced film, comic, graphic novel, or anything else that has affected me the way Bad Brain’s 1983 life defining album Rock For Light did.
Well, that is until now.
Every music fan — I mean the fans who live and breathe for music — can rattle off the sounds that changed their lives. Most of us could provide you with a sonic biography, songs that were key to the formation of our very identities. Songs or albums that compelled us to play them over and over again, in hopes of divining some new bit of hidden meaning or falling deeper into the world that was created. Or, the tunes were just so amazing that we sat there, stunned, afraid that we might be spoiled for anything else.
Nas’ verse from “Live at the Barbecue.” Busta Rhymes’ “rawr rawr/like a dungeon dragon” from A Tribe Called Quest’s “Scenario.” Radiohead’s “Creep.” The Cure’s “Pictures of You.” Björk’s “Come to Me.” Tori Amos’ “Precious Things.” Too many to name.
I put Concrete Park: R-E-S-P-E-C-T in the same category: Art that has completely transcended their form and into turned into something else.
It is easy to look at pictures/a film and listen to music — if you have the ability to do so. But when your experience of a piece of art you consumed with your senses, feels as if it was injected straight into your psyche, that is a marvelous feeling. With Concrete Park: R-E-S-P-E-C-T, I know I read it and looked at the art, but it felt like so much more than that. It felt like I was there, chilln’ with Isaac and Luca in the filthy, deadly dusty, funky, miraculous place they call home, Scare City.
If you haven’t read Concrete Park Vol.1 You Send Me, please read this so you can read why I believe you should read it. It is there that I provide a pretty thorough accounting of the world of Concrete Park.
If volume one was the introduction, Concrete Park: R-E-S-P-E-C-T is, “Hell. They know what we’re about. Let’s just go full-on batshit.” I do not want to spoil your initial reading of the book, so I’m not going to give you an in depth review. This isn’t a cop out. The plot is so tight and well-paced that if I give you any hint, any kind of fine detail, it will be a thread that I would have to pull in order to give you the full picture. Then, there would be nothing left for you to discover. I am fully aware that this is a very hyperbolic review. But there really is no other way for me to relay just how utterly amazing this book is.
Here is why:
- Isaac has reinvigorated the tired trope of the comic book anti-hero.
- Luca is one of the most badass characters in all of comics.
- The world of Concrete Park is so fully realized that it feels more like history, geography, and sociology than a graphic novel read.
- It isn’t SF, fantasy, horror, but it is. It should have its own designation.
- Girl gangs kick ass.
- Rebuilding damaged bodies to become something other than…
- The violence has a point. While extreme, it isn’t gratuitous.
- Magical systems portrayed in inventive ways.
- Pan sexuality.
- Gladiatorial combat.
- Intrigue, reversals, and betrayal.
- A gang boss on some Baron Harkonnen ish.
- Crazy tech.
- Occult cities.
- And just what/who the hell is Lena?
What: Concrete Park Vol.2 R-E-S-P-E-C-T
When: Out right now.
Why: Because this is the best sequel, to any piece of popular entertainment, since The Godfather II eclipsed the original. This, along with Concrete Park Vol.1 You Send Me is the best (only?) double album in graphic novel history.