Written by Tony Puryear and Erika Alexander
Art by Tony Puryear
When Tony Puryear and Erika Alexander's Concrete Park first debuted in Dark Horse Presents, I was immediately taken with their fascinating science fiction world. On a distant planet, convicts are sent to work in subterranean mines, but a large group of freed and escaped cons have congregated in Scare City, dividing themselves into gangs that carefully protect their own borders.
We travelled into this world with Isaac, a new arrival from Earth whose transport ship crashes, with he and the man who killed his sister the only survivors. New arrivals are a big deal on the planet (especially if they might be bringing food or other supplies with them), and we were quickly introduced to some of the major players on the planet or in the story, chief among them being Luca.
This second volume opens shortly after Isaac first meets Luca and her gang, just as they are beset upon by scavengers. They make their way into the city, where the Potato King has made his move to seize territory from Luca.
There's a lot of chaos in this volume, which began life as a miniseries that was never concluded (I hate when publishers do that, and it makes me less likely to try out new minis) until the whole thing was collected in this second volume. The story sprawls all over the place, as Isaac ends up in Las Cruces, where the gang leader employs some sort of magic, before finding himself in a gladiatorial arena, having to fight his sister's killer.
Along the way, we picked up subplots involving a race of natives indigenous to the planet, and a storyline involving food that grows there (apparently food is all imported, and shipments are decreasing). Then we get into the planet's gods, and things start to get really weird (while at least explaining the series's title).
There is a lot to like about this book, but I felt that as the story expanded in this volume, it really started to lose me. I don't know if that's because Puryear and Alexander felt the need to accelerate their story due to low sales making a larger space less likely, or if this was always the plan, but it felt like a misstep to me. Scare City is a fascinating place, and more time exploring it and getting to know some of its stranger denizens could only have made it better.
I like the way Puryear transfer LA gang culture to another planet, and weaves a variety of languages into the everyday English that's spoken on the streets. It feels like a lot of thought and planning went into this series, and I would love to read a lot more of it; I just want to be able to follow the story in an organic way.
I don't know if there are further plans for more Concrete Park, but with the intensity of Puryear and Alexander's vision, and the figure-oriented beauty of Puryear's art, I'd be all over it.