Digital Ash 10/23/2013: The Awesome, the Impossible, the BaconA comic review article by: Daniel Elkin, Jason Sacks
Massive Awesome Vol. 1
(Stephen Lindsay /Rolf Lejdegard / James Boulton)
I enjoy reading comics that call into question the nature of human existence or that question our inability to connect with each other on more than a superficial level. I am drawn to comics that ponder big questions or examine the minutia of daily life in order to embrace larger themes. I like my comics heavy, resonant, meaningful.
Sometimes I find myself enjoying the heck out of book like Massive Awesome Volume 1.
In his introduction to this book, Stephen Lindsay writes, “Writing about a 6 foot tall talking Commando piece of Bacon and a 6 foot tall talking pickle who thinks he's a zombie is very freeing.” Truer words may never have been spoken by a sober man. One could only imagine the possibilities inherent in such freedom.
Imagine no more. When you create a world in which nobody thinks a bacon ninja or a zombie pickle or a gangster with TOASTERS FOR HANDS are out of ordinary, you can do just about anything you want in your story. I mean, just read this solicitation:
The story of best friends, Commando Bacon and Zombie Pickle, as they try to unravel the mystery of who is attempting to destroy their lives. Ninjas, Giant Robots, Shadowy Government Figures, Scottish Luchadors and insatiable appetites for DESTRUCTION are but a few things standing in their way!
This comic is nuts. It's full of action and bad jokes and heart and heat and all manner of crazy ass shit that just roils and rolls and explodes all over the place. This is not a thinking man's tome; rather, this is stupid fun. Turn off your brain and laissez les bons temps rouler!! There's a certain liberation inherent in such an act. You just have to remember, America, that this should be an form entertainment, not a way of life. The introspective life has value. Our society's survival depends on us being sober-minded, thoughtful, empathetic, and informed. There are issues in the real world that demand our attention. To turn a blind eye to the problems of economic disparity and environmental devastation is to seal our doom.
But sometimes ninja bacon, zombie pickles, and dudes with TOASTERS FOR HANDS make for a small escape from the heavy work we must all engage.
Massive Awesome Volume 1 is like a sloppy kiss from a puppy. It's sweet and nice, but you probably don't want to pursue the relationship much further than that.
Have some fun. It's Massive Awesome for goodness sake. Then get back to work making this world a better place.
- Daniel Elkin
Massive Awesome Volume 1 can be downloaded at Comixology.
To the Power Against
(Carrie Smith / Stephanie Lantry)
Cat Jones was an odd person. Working as a probabilistic risk assessor, Cat is a math prodigy (she can do incredibly hard math in her head) and a prodigy at doing the seemingly impossible (making tossed coins land on their sides instead of heads or tails).
But when a bizarre accident happens, Cat becomes much odder. She gains the ability to do the incredibly improbable – literally, she can make unbelievably improbable things happen like making the sky rain apple pies or creating giant flesh-eating plants in elevators or growing plants out of shoes. But the powers are a curse as well as a blessing: Cat can cause planes to crash, cause cars to collide into each other, cause explosions wherever she goes, and – worst of all – cause her fiancé to become allergic to her.
Carrie Smith and Stephanie Lantry deliver a fun graphic novel that's sometimes silly, sometimes serious and always enjoyable. Of course, the main themes of this comic have been explored many times, so it's the execution of them that matters, and here that execution works pretty well. The creators walk the fine line between silliness and seriousness, occasionally going over that line with the deus ex machina Probability Calculator but mostly by keeping the comic focused on the charming relationship between Cat, her friend Xi Chen and her boyfriend Walter.
At times the comic feels a little claustrophobic, with its tight focus on these three characters. I was wondering if any of these characters had other friends, or if Cat has a family to tell about these strange events that are happening to her. Also, the plot of this story practically begs for more confused reaction shots from bystanders that can enhance the strangeness of the events that happen, but we don't get very many of those moments that might have helped make the comic feel sillier. The tight focus also makes the inevitable scenes of government espionage agents feel awkward and out of place.
Stephanie Lantry's artwork develops a lot during this 146-page collection. She starts out a bit awkwardly but slowly seems to find her groove for the story. She's obviously gaining a better and better feel for drawing people and places as she goes on, with a style vaguely reminiscent of Jamie McKelvie's. More importantly, she's ambitious with her art, making smart storytelling choices with her use of silent inset panels, clever storytelling and interesting panel perspectives.
Cat's a weird but charming person, and she and her friends are fun and interesting to spend time with. The cliffhanger at the end of this graphic novel seems a bit of a cliché, but there was enough fun stuff in this book to keep me coming back for more completely improbable adventures.
- Jason Sacks