Meet Jonathan Kincaid. He’s a straight-and-narrow banker with a lot of personal problems. Chief among them is a childhood incident, in which his twin brother Jeffrey did time because of a crime Jonathan committed. Now he finds himself living a life of mediocrity, desperately hoping that the office slacker with big tits will go out with him.
Naturally, his life can’t stay this way, and PENCILNECK brings him to the complete polar opposite in the space of just a few days. By the end of this book, you won’t recognize this protagonist, and it’s a hell of a memorable ride.
It all starts when Jonathan finally gets his date with Beth, the aforementioned slacker. He goes back to his shitty apartment, happy as can be, only to be ambushed by some goons. His brother has gotten himself into trouble, and he thinks Jonathan can get him out by helping these thugs rob the bank he works at. Driven by a desire to make things right with Jeffrey, Jonathan puts himself on the line to take part in this robbery, except . . . well, things don’t go all that well. All of the innocent bystanders get shot at the bank, and only Beth survives, even though she’s been gut shot. Now Jonathan finds himself at the mercy of these criminals with no way out for himself or his brother.
Remember that childhood incident? Jonathan wasn’t always so mild-mannered. A local bully fucked with him, and as a result, Jonathan beat the piss out of him with a pipe to the point of near death. Jeffrey stops him, but a cop sees what’s going on. The brothers try to escape, but Jeffrey falls behind, and Jonathan doesn’t stop. Jeffrey takes the fall for his brother, and Jonathan does nothing to help him. Thanks to this, Jeffrey goes to jail, and Jonathan reevaluates his life. He decides to straighten himself out, and he goes on to become a banker.
But with that many years of repressed anger inside of him, something is bound to snap. And fucking how. Angry over how things turned out at the bank (he believes Beth is dead) and pissed off that he can’t save his brother, Jonathan manages to get his hands on a gun and starts killing his way through mobsters in a lunatic frenzy, desperate to rescue his brother.
Holy. Fucking. Shit. Right? This book is an orgy of blood and violence and raw emotion. Writer Victor Carungi isn’t messing around with this one, and he’s not afraid to shift character dynamics as he goes. Along the way, Jonathan joins forces with the guy who sent the thugs to his apartment in the first place, and they carve their way through so many mobsters, it’s ridiculous. And to top it all off, Carungi has a surprise lurking about halfway through the book, something that adds to Jonathan’s struggles with the animal inside of him. Jonathan and Jeffrey are twins for a reason, you know.
The artists, Jeff Blascyk and Antonio Brandao are the perfect match to the material. There isn’t a polished look to this tale at all; it looks just indie enough to pull off an action book like this, balancing between noir and crime as it does. Their first depiction of Jonathan is exactly what you would expect from a mild-mannered pencilneck, but by the time they’re finished with him, he’s got more in common with Jason Statham than Robert Picardo.
There really is one flaw, but it can’t be described without spoilers. There is a scene in which the big bad guy decides that the only way to get back at Jonathan is to threaten the life of Beth (because Jonathan is clearly in love with her). But how could the bad guy possibly know that? Jonathan just recently got a date with her. It’s a small quibble, but still.
Many years before, Carungi tried to tackle PENCILNECK in a very different way. To any who have seen pages from this early incarnation, you’d be shocked to see how different they are from this new book. How truly awful they were. He knows. If you buy PENCILNECK at a convention, he’ll probably give you an issue of the old version for free. He’ll probably tell you that it’s “the worst comic book ever done.” Well, it’s not, but it’s shit compared to the masterpiece that is PENCILNECK.
The world is better for this revision. Your life can only be enhanced by this book. Don’t miss the sheer lunacy that makes up Jonathan’s life.
Written by Victor Carungi
Illustrated by Jeff Blascyk and Antonio Brandao
Paper Street Comics
Waaaay too many pages to count (they’re not numbered)