Getting diagnosed with terminal cancer affects patients in a variety of ways. Some try to live life to the fullest and enjoy what days remain with those closest to them. But what happens to a vigilante who has fallen far from grace, who pushed away those he loved, and has been betrayed by anyone left he considered a friend? Aberrant creator Rylend Grant and artist Fábio Alves have presented a story that asks these questions in Banjax #1 for Action Lab Danger Zone Comics, which sees how the disgraced superhero goes out in a violent, Death Wish blaze of glory to take down every scumbag in his city.
"It’s an absolutely bonkers ride, not necessarily an easy buy-in for the average reader," warns Grant. "Issue 1 is all about understanding [our protagonist] Laird Mason’s motivations, why he feels the need to take such an extreme line. The city he loves is in real trouble. Once he’s gone, there’ll be no one left to save her. In his mind, this is the only way forward. Once you see that, once you truly understand it, I think you’re all in, despite the bumpy ride."
If you're not well acquainted with Grant's work in the political conspiracy thriller comic Aberrant (which is being developed into a television series), then Banjax's nonlinear storytelling and manipulation of the point of view will be sure to stand out as well as the mature deconstruction of the superhero vigilante. The title refers to an Irish slang term, “to ruin, incapacitate, break, beat to hell, or destroy.” That Mason chose this as his moniker says plenty of the kind of volatile character readers are dealing with.
"He’s the kind of guy – and we all know somebody like this – that just destroys [banjaxes] everything he touches," describes Grant. "He’s not your classic hero. He’s a deeply flawed human being dealing with a ton of psychological ugly. Issue 1 was built around a principle of physics – and of Zen Buddhism – that past, present, and future are just meaningless distinctions, that our whole miserable life is actually happening right here and right now, in this very moment, that concepts like past and present are human-born. Mason has what the Zen set would call an 'enlightenment experience,' and he is able to see through all of it, see what brought him here, and everything that comes next."
In SYFY WIRE's exclusive preview, pages 21-25 show a big turning point in the first issue. Mason appears to have turned his life around, especially with a new sidekick. But there's a serial rapist on the loose, and while investigating the case it becomes personal, and in the midst of becoming emotionally unhinged he is betrayed by someone who he considers a friend, events that are sure to haunt him as the series progresses.
"It is the memory incidents like these that keeps Mason up at night, that won’t let him die in peace. This is not a man who is scared of cancer or of dying, he’s only scared that once he’s gone, men like Ongo [the aforementioned serial rapist] will have free rein, will ravage the city he loves. Mason’s Death Wish-like mission is a wild, misguided stab at preventing that."
This is Grant's second grounded look at superheroes, a space that he thrives in.
"I’m not terribly interested in the fantastic. Both books are an almost morbidly realistic look at what would actually happen if there were folks in our world running around with superpowers. It’d certainly be the wrong people – remarkably flawed people with a ton of baggage – that would end up with powers. The fame, the money, the ability to influence that came with heroing would almost be debilitating. Boy Scouts aren’t fun, anyway. I’m much more interested in dirtbags."
Check out SYFY WIRE's entire five-page preview of Banjax #1 below with a cover gallery and let us know what you think. Retailers can pre-order the 32-page first issue of Banjax until May 13, and it goes on sale June 5 for $3.99.