Welcome to the world of Grip of the Kombinat, a dystopian future where there are no peers, only coworkers (as is dutifully reinforced by the mascot, Peerless Percy the maggot), and everything must be done for the good of the company. Coworkers Simon Roy (scribe) and Damon Gentry (Department of Visuals) take the reader through a hilarious, episodic journey where the woes of corporate greed and bureaucracy are thoroughly mocked.
The galaxy is ruled by two competing corporations, P.U.K. and X.I.T., who are in dispute over who owns which parts of Venus. Their only concerns are making money and gaining more than the other, leading to a hyper-competitive society where workers martyr themselves for the chance at a big payday for their families.
Thankfully, there is H.E.L.P., who wants to return the world to a more ethical time. Well, at least there was help before their mission went wrong and P.U.K.’s relentless contract enforcer Commander Elkhorn destroyed them. Little does the galaxy know that this entanglement will set off a chain of events that will prove disastrous (depending on who you are in the galactic bureaucracy).
Roy and Gentry craft a marvelous callback to older sci-fi comics while making them feel fresh and relevant. The humor will make readers laugh and gasp as they contemplate the darker notions of the book’s satire.
For example, the robots of this world have three laws, like those in Isaac Asimov’s stories, but the corporations think the order is all wrong. While they begin with preventing the robots from harming humans as the first law, this continually interferes with the bottom line as the robots try to do things outside of their programming to help humanity.
What results is that the third law, where a robot cannot cause a human to lose money, is reordered to be first. It is this complicated mix of hilarity and grim dehumanization that makes Grip of the Kombinat truly magical.
While there is an overarching story, the book is divided into self-contained chapters, smaller strips, and a few text-heavy pages of reporting and diary entries. The reader is slowly given the full scope of this dystopian future which makes the ending, where everything comes together, very satisfying.
The art is top-notch and a large part of the skillfully crafted mix of satire and dread. Everything is black and white but never uninteresting, and attentive readers will be rewarded with multiple visual gags that flesh out the world even more.
The style reminds me of those classic pulp comics where everything is highly exaggerated, and wackiness ensues. Many of the outfits are over-the-top and impractical but oddly gel in a world where money speaks more than sense. Gentry gives this style some personal flair by adding gritty backgrounds and switching between light and heavy inking.
Lettering is additionally used for humor and zany action. In many instances, the sound effects will be literal instead of trying to imitate the sound, for instance, saying “jump” instead “whoosh.” The lettering also has a quasi-manga feel where lots of little sound effects are displayed, making the pages even more fun.
While definitely not safe for work, Grip of the Kombinat is an insightful, enjoyable ride about the woes of corporate greed and nonsensical rules. It is shamelessly anti-capitalist and an artful work of satire.
Now get back to work!