"The Case of the Massively Magical Monkey Mage"
Writer: Bill Willingham
Artist: Shawn McManus
Publisher: DC Comics
The first of four one-shot Helmet of Fate issues is a hoot. Just out and out quirky fun. There is absolutely no way you can read this book and not crack a smile. And what's not to smile about a chimp that wear a suit and talks? Seriously though, this bodes well for the next three issues.
Bill Willingham is usually hit or miss for me. This time, it's a hit. And this one really took me by surprise. I thought this issue was going to be extremely hokey. Bad hokey, no less. But, thankfully, in this issue you will believe a monkey can talk.
The story is really quite simple: the Helmet of Fate tossed into space by Captain Marvel, finds its way back to Earth and into the hand of Detective Chimp, who I'll call "DC" from this point on. From there hilarity ensues, as well as some insight as to the powers of the Fate helmet. This issue's strength is DC's internal dialogue throughout. It's that quirky aspect that I mentioned above that drives this story. DC goes from an intelligent, crime-solving chimp to a magically enhanced, intelligent, crime-solving chimp. The main difference being is that solving crimes are no longer a challenge to him. A dream come true, right? Not so fastů.
As tempting as it is for DC to keep the Helmet, he realizes in the end, it's not for him. It's that journey that gets him to that point that provides the most enjoyment. How he's able to do all the things that the original Dr. Fate did. The problem is that he's also losing his humanity along that way. The ironic part is that a chimp can become less human by wearing a ridiculous looking metallic mask. In the end, that scares him, and he makes the decision to let it go and just be himself. DC just is not Dr. Fate. Willingham has made a character like DC seem more human than a lot of other comics characters, and he also has you caring about what happens to DC. That in and of itself is a hell of a job well done.
One thing I knew I would enjoy in this book is the art by Shawn McManus, and he did not disappoint. McManus' cartoony style fits this story well. It was just on that borderline of being too cartoony and just realistic enough. McManus found that perfect fit. You quickly forget that the lead character is a chimp, and you just accept. DC Comics needs to find more work for McManus and soon.
After reading this, I would love to see this same team do a Detective Chimp series! Yes, I am serious. Willingham & McManus produced a gem of a comic here. But, overall, you learn one valuable lesson along the way: You don't monkey around with Fate.
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