Backstab and, more generally, the work of Al Gofa, concerns itself with the blending of genre. His first full length graphic novel Dark Angels of Darkness focused on blending post-apocalypse with, let’s call it “Dragon Ball like” over-the-top action. His latest oversized comic series Backstab blends heist, 80’s movie action and supernatural monsters. It’s a very particular way of making an action comics and an extremely satisfying read.
Two nameless gangsters have been hired to retrieve a very valuable item at the villa of a rich eccentric industrialist named Mr. Shkariton. They go through the security team relatively easily, blow-up the house and escape, but things get a bit more bizarre on the way out as they’re intercepted by an egomaniac vampire who also wish to acquire the item they stole. There’s a mystery involving the item and another concerning who the two gangsters are as one of them seems to have secrets of his own. There’s recurring comedy, over-the-top car chases and wild fights. It’s a pretty thrilling read. Al Gofa manages to build it’s own mythology, advances it’s story and build excitement and teases for upcoming chapters. It’s well done.
I had time to read a lot of comics from old back issues bins and I read a lot of sub-par superhero comics who should be action packed, but where the action feels like an afterthought, a necessary evil to get to the next story beat. It’s not often done well. Here, Al Gofa’s primary concern IS the action. It’s like watching The Raid or Mad Max Fury Road. The focus of the comic is speed, momentum, impact and, something that was missing in his previous graphic novel, clarity. Clarity was perhaps the biggest issue with Dark Angels of Darkness and Al Gofa seems to have solved this with Backstab. There’s a bigger emphasis on spatial movements, we know where characters are in relation to other characters. There”s more focus on continuity of action, character turning left in one panel remains on the left as the next panel’s angle takes us to his point of view. And Al Gofa manages to maintain his comic fast paced and engaging from beginning to end.
Another interesting elements from Backstab is that Al Gofa is self-publishing a serialization of the series in oversized black & white edition. It will eventually be collected and released by Peow Press in colour and what I assume will be a smaller format. I’ve read the black and white version and I’ve had the chance to be able to compare it to it’s coloured version and they both looked gorgeous. I was also surprised by how restrained the colour palette, especially when looking back at the otherworldly shades of purple and oranges of Dark Angel of Darkness. Here the colours are much more down to earth and add some dimensions to the work, but having seen both versions, they aren’t entirely necessary.
It’s interesting to follow the trajectory of this artist. In 2015, I found one of Al Gofa’s sketchbook in a small comic shop in Quebec City. I was fascinated by the broad range of work he was able to produce and wonder what he would be able to do once he focused on a single work. Backstab seems like it’s getting closer to what he wants to do, more so than Dark Angels of Darkness. It’s more polished, it’s clearer, it’s more intriguing. He managed to distill all of his influences and create a very coherent, unique style for himself. This is a great work.