I confess that I didn’t think I was going to like Sing No Evil, but it won me over. I tend to like the more darker corners of the comic book world—Frank Miller, Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka—and I just don’t ‘get’ the kind of “quirky humor” (as the publisher advertises this book) or farce that some people seem to like, and Sing No Evil seemed geared up to be just that, featuring a drumming bear as one of the characters. But, still, this is a story about a progressive metal band, and I used to be in a progressive metal band, so ok, I’ll try it. Then when I got to the norwegian death metal bands being satirized in the first few pages, I was like, yes! Artist JP Ahonen and writer KP Alare earned a gold star just for that.
Sing No Evil’s main character is guitarist Aksel, who’s drawn as a cross between Axel Rose and Kurt Cobain (neither of whom is progressive metal, but ok) with long greasy blonde hair and perpetually scruffy. He’s the founder and (sort of) leader of the band Perkeros, but tends to get wrapped up in his music at the expense of this relationships, both those with his band members and with his girlfriend and, in fact, the coolest ‘effect’ in the book is when Ahonen substitutes musical notes for letters in the word balloons, in order to ‘show’ Aksel’s spacing out.
The rest of the band is a motley assortment, from the ultracool-and-most-potentially-awesome-girlfriend-ever keyboardist Lily, to the old (I mean really old) bass player, Kervinen, and to the singer/guitarist Aydin, who’s arrival/joining is the tension in the first part of the book.
And then there’s the bear drummer. Just go with it, ok? Apparently all the bands in towns have animals for drummers, which might or might not be an homage to Animal from The Muppets. This is the quirky part the publishers are talking about in their press release. The rest of the book is actually not-so-quirky, though at times tastefully humorous.
And really, Aksel’s problems with his girlfriend, complicated by his friendship with Lily, and Aydin’s arrival as a much better singer than Aksel would, and could, be enough for this story to work. But then there’s some kind of supernatural creepiness happening around town….something involving music….
As a musician, I appreciate the attention to detail that both writer Alare and artist Ahonen (both of whom are musicians—heavy metal musicians to boot) give to the music ‘scene’/world here. Just little things, like a panel showing a guitar chord being plugged into an amp, that I don’t think non-musicians would have thought about. And they know the difference between prog rock and death metal, and jokes like, ‘How many guitarists does it take to plug in a lightbulb?’ The musicians, and the band tensions, are very real.
And just visually, the artwork is great, with much attention to detail, and many (I almost hate to use this term) psychedelic concert scenes (including the opening scene, which is sexy as hell and another reason the book won me over). The characters are drawn almost Sunday-cartoon-ish, a little caricature-y, which actually makes them more sympathetic and human-feeling, though it’s interesting that, while most of the band members are supposedly college-age, they could be taken for fourteen-year-olds, which I think is really effective, since the main audience for this is probably teens of all ages. Though who knows? I enjoyed it and I’m a wee bit older than that.v
Is Sing No Evil deep and profound? Well, no. Is it a good, fun, human, story? Yes. Is the artwork awesome? Yes. Three stars + making fun of death metal = four stars.