NBA superstar Rudy Gobert takes his talents to a new arena with comic writing debut BASH!
As we enter March Madness, it is a good time to be a basketball fan. And if you’re also into comics…there is something just for you. From NBA superstar Rudy Gobert comes BASH! The 3x Defensive Player of the Year and 4x All-NBA Team player makes his comic writing debut, penning alongside Hellef Bay, while Vince Serrano provides the art.
From the NBA arena to the cosmos
This manga-inspired intergalactic story takes place in a dystopian world, where BASH is society’s only source of entertainment, while those in power use it as a tool for profit and power. The titular sport is an extreme version of basketball with players wearing battle armor, and a dynamic environment that changes the court to potentially fatal conditions. The book also serves as the launch of the Titan Nova imprint, which is geared toward middle-grade and adult readers.
Earth is a joke in the game of BASH, consistently dominated by other planets. In this galaxy, the game of BASH has serious political power and Earth has become a backwater planet. The book follows a teenager named Rudy and his group of friends as they compete in street games to try and get noticed by professional teams.
A theme that Gobert talked about in the initial graphic novel announcement was that he wanted this book to be about courage, and his desire to make readers feel that particular emotion the strongest. I think he succeeds on that end. Rudy’s character development is satisfying in how he learns to discover more about himself and what that may mean for himself in the future. There’s a bit of innocence to this story that really makes this courage emerge in a way that remains true to its core.
Is BASH! a slam dunk?
The writing is at its weakest when it comes to some of the book’s emotional beats, as it falls into a very familiar cliché territory. Conversations between Rudy and his mom that should be uplifting, can be the most boring parts. Simply put, the book is at its best when it focuses on the game. The book, split into six chapters, gets progressively better. This escalation is a saving grace to the writing, allowing for Gobert and Bay to write a pretty exciting climax that wraps up this first book nicely.
The antagonists introduced are a mixed bag. There’s the typical bully character, a cowardly governor, and then the true big bad – who is the leader of the empire that has reigned supreme over Earth and the game of BASH. The governor, Valkyrion, is the best of the bunch, as he can be comically evil, purposely changing BASH environments and trying to rig results in order to raise taxes or entice more bets. And this works very well for this type of story where there is a lot of flair and personality to the world.
Art & lettering
Serrano’s art stands out most during the BASH games, as his dynamic style matches the hyper-play style of the sport. Dunks, fadeaways, and even free throws have this added intensity to them. There is an announcer for the professional game with a distinctive “beard and sunglasses” look who Serrano does a really good job of interweaving in between the actual gameplay. Facial expressions and the general designs of the characters are all great. The art carries the writing at times especially in terms of pacing, as it moves the story so fluidly from panel to panel. He also captures the feeling of the cramped neighborhoods and run-down street courts in a way that naturally blends the dirtiness of the real-world and cyberpunk sci-fi aesthetics.
One piece that doesn’t work for me is the placement of the speech bubbles and the lettering, as they often take up far too much page space while also having a font size that doesn’t fill the actual bubble properly. This is probably done intentionally to match the manga style, but when there is a lot of text in one bubble, which happens often, it doesn’t look very good.
Now, while this first book may not be a slam dunk, this is still a story that I suspect will entertain most readers. In particular, fans of basketball and sports as well as anime and manga will have a fun time with Rudy Gobert’s BASH! The writing can be shaky at times, but is serviceable, while the art is consistently strong. The future that is set up for Rudy and Co. is enticing, and if the creators keep up the pace of quality, well…then this is a good beginning to what could be a joyous sports and sci-fi journey.