Mesmo Delivery is less a complete tale, and more like a convoluted fight scene extracted from a Quentin Tarantino movie. There's a lot about the plot, characters, and setting that gets left out, particularly the mysterious mcguffin that triggers it. There's only enough information supplied to create a sense of foreboding. But this is a shrewd choice for the comic book debut of Rafael Grampá. The story is just a means to exhibit his considerable talents as an illustrator and graphic designer. And it soon becomes clear that Grampá possesses a knack for choreographing violent physical encounters, because that's really what Mesmo Delivery boils down to - a virtuosic rendition of brutality and sadism.
The book was originally touted by its original publisher AdHouse with the high concept summation - it's Convoy meets The Twilight Zone. Mesmo doesn't have that fantastical or grandiose a premise behind it, although it contains a hint of the uncanny. Like Tarantino, Grampá pays homage to, and exploits, varied elements of popular genre entertainment. It's a useful shorthand that helps sidestep exposition and character development. Trucker tales, spaghetti westerns, horror, fantasy, kung-fu wirework, slasher flicks, early twentieth cartoons, and who knows what else, are all thrown into the mix. When two enigmatic delivery men walk into a seedy diner in the middle of nowhere, one frequented by the usual assortment of lowlifes, everyone knows a fight's going to break out sooner or later. The two are the proverbial odd couple: One's a massively built ex-boxer, gruff and reserved. The other's a lean-looking Elvis impersonator who can't stop declaiming about his own artistic superiority over the original performer. Grampá throws in a number of twists to keep the proceedings unbalanced. What starts out as a typical back-street brawl quickly takes a strange turn when the participants engage each other weilding unorthodox weapons. It turns unexpectedly bloody, follows another bizarre twist, and climaxes with a mesmerizing pageantry of over-the-top carnage, conclusively proving who is the true badass of this comic. This is all lovingly captured with Grampá's obsessive and finely honed mark-making.
Grampá, aided in the colors by Marcus Penna, no doubt has the chops to relay the grindhouse flavor of his influences. He draws the backgrounds and environment with a lot of attention to tiny, gritty details. The muted earth tones give everything a rusted, almost vintage appearance. It's as if the reader is actually looking at everything through rose-tinted glasses. When combined with the setting, it transforms the art into a decadent representation of Route 66 America. In contrast, Grampá's characters, though no less detailed, are slightly cartoony in appearance and body language. It imbues the in-story violence a certain manic stylistic exaggeration somewhat reminiscent of European "clear line" comic art. They're all grotesque figures to varying degrees, literally and figuratively. What really sets Grampá apart from most comic artists is his skill with typography. Type plays a more integral role in creating the environment, especially the faded signs found at the roadside establishments that dot the country's highways. The type by itself is very lovely, suggesting a different era. Later in the story, Grampá goes further and uses typography as a design element within the panels themselves, giving Mesmo Delivery a a visual identity which is unlike most mainstream comics. Those panels have an unusually composed stillness to them that doesn't exactly take away from the action being depicted.
All in all, Mesmo Delivery is an impressive debut for Grampá. It's technically assured, beautifully rendered, disturbing to read, and has the right combination of exhilarating action sequences and pop culture references to be a hit with the target audience. Needless to say, the nonexistent plot, shallow characterization, macho posturing, ultra-violence, and amoral ending are not going to appeal to everyone. But Mesmo Delivery is an undeniable outburst of fiery energy from an artist at the height of his powers. I wonder how his style will evolve in the future with longer, meatier, more nuanced, or more varied narratives.