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The Trace Adkins Comic ‘Luke McBain’ Is Actually Not That Bad

Hustlers shootin’ eightball
Throwin’ darts at the wall
Feelin’ damn near 10 ft. tall
Here she comes, Lord help us all
Ol’ T.W.’s girlfriend done slapped him outta his chair
Poor ole boy, it ain’t his fault
It’s so hard not to stare
At that honky tonk badonkadonk.

— “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk,” Trace Adkins

Right when you hoped that celebrity comics had deposited their egg sacs in the rotting corpse of a North American bison and scurried off the cliff into forever, “Country music” superstar Trace Adkins slaughtered the alpha male and tossed his genuine leather ten-gallon hat into the ring. Just in time for the Country Music Association awards.

Celebrity comics certainly have been coming at us from all sides lately – Milo Ventimiglia, Tyrese Gibson, etc – but who in their right mind could have imagined that Adkins, “Celebrity Apprentice” finalist and singer of such classics as “(This Ain’t) No Thinkin’ Thing” and “Ladies Love Country Boys” would be the next to lend his likeness to a book?

These are clearly not times for the right-minded, lads and ladesses. Trace Adkins does indeed have a comic book in worship of his likeness. It’s called “Luke McBain.”

And it’s not that bad.
“Luke McBain” fits neatly within the “Hicksploitation” genre pioneered by movies like “Macon County Line” and “Walking Tall,” with a plot seemingly cobbled together from three or four Joe Don Baker movies. After fourteen years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, Luke McBain (who just happens to look exactly like Trace Adkins) returns to his home town of Eden, Louisiana, where his corrupt brother (the one McBain took the fall for, of course) runs the mill and the town, and has turned a nice, wholesome God-fearing community into a den of iniquity.

All the trappings are there: the high school sweetheart, the dust-up at the general store, a guitar case filled with guns, etc. Downright boilerplate, really. Writer David Tischman (“Bite Club”) certainly doesn’t explore any new territory, but he has managed to arrange all the elements necessary for redneck noir. It’s not great, but unlike most comics written for a celebrity, it doesn’t make you want to open your wrists with a rusty butterknife.

For the subject matter, the art is surprisingly evocative. Kody Chamberlain has already established himself as a talent worth watching, but with “Luke McBain” it’s perfectly clear that he is worthy of a much higher profile. With a style somewhat reminiscent of Michael Lark, he portrays the rural south with an eye towards authenticity but without becoming a human photocopier, aided throughout by wonderful coloring. The colorist isn’t credited in the book, so I assume it’s Chamberlain, but whoever is handling these chores is doing so with skill; the Louisiana landscape is neatly defined with a few simple ochre washes, and wherever McBain seems to go, he seems enveloped in riddles of color.

All in all, “Luke McBain” is an okay read that could provide quite a lot for fans of the Hicksploitation genre and Adkins. And unlike all the other celebs starring in their own comic, he had nothing to do with the creation, and doesn’t pretend to. He has, however, given the comic full promotional support, including a feature in “USA Today” and running a motion comic on his website.

But please, let us not forget that Trace Adkins is a giant tool getting rich off of his complete lack of talent. Really, he’s not even Country music.

Adkins and all his phony-baloney faux-redneck cohorts are just repurposed pop stars, image-conscious and everything, churning out three-minute nuggets of over-produced crap R&B drum beats with lyrics about momma and beer with a few banjo rolls and fiddle accents sprinkled on top. No, friends, this isn’t Country music. Country music, real Country music, has been so tastelessly molested by the Nashville regime that it had to fake its death in 1987 and change its name to Alternative Country so that its message of damage and fear could be heard by those who would understand. This has absolutely nothing to do with comics, I know, but goddammit, every time the CMA awards come around, I want to douse all these ridiculous, preening hacks in a special mixture of kerosene and blood, set them ablaze with my Johnny Cash lighter, and practice lap steel licks as their ashes taper off to infinity.

But still, “Luke McBain” isn’t that bad.

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