Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Remake: A good one, I think

Elsewhere: I review Fantastic Four #570 at Comics Bulletin.

And: Lucius Hammer writer Brian Williams responds to my review of his comic, making me consider issues about race. It was enough to make me consider if maybe some unconscious racism went into the review; is the idea of a black man getting a college degree and living morally preposterous? I hope that's not where I was coming from, and Williams' defense of his work makes me even more curious about the eventual comic. I'll be watching for it.

Another link: Smith Magazine, having recently finished their "Next-Door Neighbor" series, has launched a new webcomic called "The Pekar Project" (here's the first installment, in which Harv discusses art theories with Robert Crumb over the phone), in which a rotating art crew illustrates stories written by Harvey Pekar. I don't know if I especially like Tara Siebel's art on the first one, but hey, it's still Pekar. These should be good.

By Lamar Abrams

Well, this is just silly. Actually, scratch the "just"; it's silly, and gloriously, purposefully so. In this slim volume, Lamar Abrams brings a weird, cartoony world to life, creating an Astro Boy-like kid robot who acts like a real child with those powers might. He's flighty and spontaneous, prone to whining about being bored, showing off, goofing around, and arguing as much or more than he is to actual crimefighting. It's pretty hilarious watching him cause havoc all over his strange world, which seems to be populated by other robots, strangely deformed freaks, and even the occasional normal person. And not a whit of logic; the stories have a childlike flow to them, bouncing from incident to incident and joke to joke, barely stopping to take a breath along the way.

The aforementioned robot boy goes by the name of Max Guy, and he sometimes fights villains in chapters like "Vs. the Guy that Stretches" or "Vs. the Cat Thing", but just as often, he gets in arguments with his pal/roommate Cardigan (who is either also a robot or just has a metal head), sits around playing video games, or hangs out with other robot/mutant friends. The stories often have a sort of stream-of-consciousness, anything-can-happen feel, with weirdness just crashing in for the hell of it, or Max's "Max Blaster" raygun zapping things and turning them into other things nonsensically:

As that page illustrates, the dialogue is also pretty stilted, but comedically so, as if it was poorly translated from another language. It's done in a way that humorously adds to the strange vibe, rather than just sounding dumb. How Abrams manages to hit that balance is a mystery; being surreal and nonsensical and still funny is obviously not as easy as it would seem, as any number of awful webcomics can demonstrate.

Abrams also demonstrates a nice grasp of pacing, often cramming a bunch of small panels on one page and still telling a clear story. And the art visibly improves over the course of the book, going from kind of sketchy and rough (but still laid out well and easy to read) to thick-lined and dynamic, with some really good uses of grey tones for shading. The comedy, however, is consistent throughout, with each new page delivering a laugh-worthy moment, like Max's reaction to a kid on fire:

Or Max not being happy about a drill-handed girl that Cardigan picked up (and by the way, Abrams is great at drawing cute girls):

It's pretty ridiculous stuff, but always funny. Yes, the laughs often come from disbelief at whatever bizarre silliness that happens, but it all seems to make at least a little bit of sense within Abrams' world, and that's all that matters. Attempts to explain or understand (such as the entire contents of this review) would probably just muddy things further; just read and laugh, and hope that another volume eventually comes along to make it happen again.