Gunning for Hits (Review): The Underbelly of Music in Comic Form

June 19, 2019

 

In the pages of Image Comics’ Gunning for Hits, you’ll find the dingy and exciting underbelly of the music industry in pristine comic form. Music, hitmen, betrayal and more litter this ruthless story by writer Jeff Rougvie and Moritat.

 

Image has an obscene wealth of really captivating comics to choose from. Comic book fans have it good right now. Speaking of good, let’s get into GFH.Rougvie worked as a music producer under Rykodisc (where he produced re-releases of all of David Bowie’s music at the time).

 

According to Rougvie, he spent time with Bowie during the Sound+Vision tour. During his career, Rougvie produced re-releases of many other artists. A few Rougvie collabs are Elvis Costello and Nine Inch Nails. So his experience is fitting for this book.

Did I mention he got to talk to David Bowie on a regular basis?

I did? Well, it’s worth mentioning again.

 



GFH is grimy, it’s punk, it’s a hell of a good time.

Enter Martin Mills, a passionate talent scout looking for the next best thing in music. Oh, one other thing… Mills used to be a hitman. I guess music and contract killing are similar fields? The man collects hits and musical hits.

Martin Mills is a sleezeball. Yet I love him for it. He’s sharp and he’ll do whatever he needs to do to come out on top. Martin is always two steps ahead and he’s smarter than the competition. Being in the industry he’s in, he has to be.

So Mills finds what he thinks is the next big thing, the voice of a generation in a young band called Stunted Growth. Mills wants to have Stunted Growth open for Brian Slade, an once famous artist in need of a comeback.

Brian Slade is a Bizarro-Bowie and it works. Also, he straight looks like the guy. Slade is sly, eccentric and determined to make his comeback one to remember. That’s why he’s a perfect chess piece for Mills’ crusade.

 



Along the way, Mills and co. have to do everything they can to keep Stunted Growth and Slade on top. In the fashion of life, things don’t work out as planned and they run into issues along the way. Gun carrying, blackmail, wanna-be rockstar, swollen head from fame issues.

Strangely enough, it feels like there’s a lot of espionage in the music industry. Producers and scouts track down potential talent. Then they blend into shows so they can acquire a target.

People like Mills are hunters in the wild. It’s kill or be killed in the music industry. Wits, creativity and passion are some of the tools you have to keep yourself alive.

At least, that’s what I took away from this.

I’ll say this, though. GFH may not be for everyone.

 


GFH is for people who want something out of the box. No sci-fi. No dark doorways to parallel dimensions. No abnormal D-20s. Just a not-so-typical story about a talent scout who worked as a former hit-man trying to find the next best thing in music.

Music fans, action fans , Scorsese fans and anyone who wants to see different done right will get something out of GFH. It’s well written, expressively drawn and just a fresh story for anyone who’s fed up with the same-old same-old.

I do have one gripe about this book and it’s not a personal one. If you know nothing about GFH, you might start it and be tempted to put it down. It’s not high octane and it shouldn’t be. Anyone expecting something like Mad Max or Kill Bill is going to be disappointed. GFH is subtle and keeps you on edge without using explosions and violent bloodbaths.

Moritat has this expressive, sequential art style that makes this book shine. It doesn’t pop, necessarily but it moves. Just open up any issue and it’s like the art is moving on the page.

 


(You should know that I made up a rating system for this book just now. I give GFH 4.8 out of 5 Bowie Blackstars. That’s because I’m trying to reel the generosity back a little.)

My other gripe is that GFH is taking a break after it’s first arc (because Rougvie is hard at work putting together a nonfiction book). That said, there are so many potential directions this book can go, given Rougvie’s experience.

A trade collecting all six issues is coming out later this summer. If you’re curious, ask your comic shop to order one for you.

 Anyone who gives this book a try gets a personal No-Prize from me.

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