Paul Pope’s zany stories are always a sight to behold. Love him or hate him, it’s certain you’ll find something to say about his work — it demands a reaction, whether positive or negative. The One-Trick Ripoff/Deep Cuts Collection is actually a re-release of most of his intriguing works from the 90s, seen in Dark Horse Presents, and is a worthy anthology that begs your attention.
The main plot thread follows a bizarre love-struck couple who want to get away from the chaos of the street gangs they find themselves mixed up with. Gangs like “The Paid in Spades” or “The One Tricks” roam Los Angeles, and Tubby and Vim want to run away from it all, Romeo and Juliet-style, with a tinge of the surreal. They decide to break out of the grimy world they live in by becoming thieves who happen to steal from other thieves, namely gang members such as themselves. Tubby and Vim know the stakes are high, and it’ all or nothing, but something has to change so they can finally find their happily ever after.
The collection is rough, for sure, but that’s part of its quirky charm. These characters are quintessentially 90s, packed with personality and practically peeling themselves off the pages with a rawness not seen in modern romance yarns. And not only do you get a window into the world of these young lovers in this anthology, but The Deep Cuts encompasses sensational short comic strips and other forms of media that run the gamut. You’ll find punk rock love poems, touching sagas, and stories about wayward teenagers. It’s a melting pot with a very schizophrenic feel, and it’s disjointed, but that’s how collections work. And this one in particular is a real doozy.
You’ll come for The Italian Job-esque One Trick Rip-off, but undoubtedly will stay for the 150 extra pages of rare, previously unpublished content from Pope’s early career, as mentioned above. A particularly excellent example of the writer’s chops is exemplary in the Supertrouble manga, originally created for Kodansha in Japan — it’s trippy, engaging stuff to be sure.
The 288-page odyssey is stoic, violent, and even downright hilarious at times, never slowing down for a moment even through its grittier material. It’s a mile-a-minute treasure trove of inventive storytelling that isn’t always comfortable or pure, but it never ceases to entertain. Pick it up as a great gateway drug for the rest of Pope’s work, or if you’re looking for something a little more off-the-beaten-path. If you’re looking for punk rock powerhouse narratives, you’ve found it here.