Well, the book I’ve been holding my breath for since I heard about it in the planning stages is finally here. All the best small press people, all in one book! All Bizarro stories, all the time! Little seen talents finally getting a chance to shine on the big stage! And the end result is… mixed.
Oh, don’t get me wrong, there are moments in here that make it worthwhile, enough so that I can recommend getting it. You could probably wait for the softcover to come out and save $10 or so, because there’s nothing in here that couldn’t wait a few months. If you don’t know the concept, DC apparently decided to give all these “no name” people a chance. If anybody knows the complete story behind this book, let me know. I’m curious as hell to see how this got organized. And whose decision was it to put pairings on all of the stories instead of just letting one person shine? Granted, some of the pairings boggle the mind: Dylan Horrocks and Jessica Abel, James Kochalka (writing and not drawing!) and Dylan Horrocks, Jef Czekaj and Brian Ralph, Eddie Campbell and Hunt Emerson, Ivan Brunetti and Evan Dorkin, Evan Dorkin and Steven Weissman… it’s a hell of a list, don’t get me wrong. But most of these guys spend their time doing their own thing and I think it would have flowed a lot better if they had been allowed to do that here. Granted, you would have to bring in a color guy for most of these people that have never used it, but they do everything else themselves.
The story (such as it is) is this: a creature called A comes to Mxyzptlk’s world to try and take over. He challenges M to a best-of-seven of games, but M is disqualified and has to choose a champion. Remembering his past problems, he chooses Superman but can’t find an appropriate alternate universe substitute after the original one doesn’t believe him, and accidentally chooses Bizarro. Make sense? It doesn’t matter. Bizarro decides to win the contest by drawing a bunch of stories, and these stories are all the ones by the small press folks.Â When it goes back to the “story”, these comics are promptly forgotten about and the challenges begin, but not before they get an insult or two off about the quality of the comics. Which, I’m sure, is just an insult in the story directed at Bizarro and not the creators, but it’s pretty easy to take it the wrong way. The main story takes up about 60 pages of a 236 page book, which wouldn’t be that bad if it didn’t mostly suck. It has a few moments, but the thought that this story was expanded upon at the expense of some of these extremely talented guys doesn’t make sense at all to me.
Flipping through this again to write this, I see that I enjoyed almost all of the shorts in this. I didn’t really like Wonder Girl vs. Wonder Tot, Help! Superman!!, Batman, and The Most Bizarre Bizarro of All! Compare that to the 23 other stories that I liked a lot, and it looks like they have a winner here. The Bat-man (by Chip Kidd and Tony Millionaire and strangely, the only black and white story in the book) is brilliant. Old school classic Batman here, and he’s ugly as hell. Hawkman (James K. and Dylan Horrocks), while not drawn by James, has the same feel that I’ve come to know and love from all his work. Kamandi (Nick Bertozzi and Tom Hart) takes the cake for me as the best story in the book, but I’m hopelessly biased because Tom Hart drew it. That’s Really Super, Superman (Ivan Brunetti and Evan Dorkin) is a close second, and First Contact (Mark Crilley and Andi Watson), about the Atom, is up there too.
I was expecting a hell of a lot from this book, and I’m not sure that I got it. What I did get, however, is a thoroughly entertaining look at a lot of DC universe told through the eyes of some of the most talented people working in comics today. If I cared at all about the characters this probably would have been a great book, or maybe if they had allowed them to work by themselves, or maybe if DC had given them a little more room (and a lot more people. The names excluded here are too numerous to mention, although I am surprised and gratified by some of the selections) to the creators. All in all, if you like even half the people in this book, get it. If you like Evan Dorkin, Sam Henderson or Dylan Horrocks, they’re all in here a few times writing and drawing but not, as I’ve made pretty clear by now, doing both things at once. The Matt Groening cover makes the book, too. And yes, I did see the Dan Clowes cover in The Comics Journal and I thought it was great, but I think this is a better cover for the tone of the book.
Finally! A Hectic Planet book that reaches the level of his other work! We get absolute mayhem in the Vroom Socko: Paid in Full segment, mourning over lost girlfriends in the opening segment, and Halby punching a cop and getting away with it. Solid book, and the mark of a good book like this late in a series is that it makes me want to give the first parts a second chance. Now that the characters are fully developed and I know what he was doing all that time, maybe the first parts would come off better. Eh, maybe not. Whatever the case, this is still a great all around book.
Man, I had high hopes for this book. As far as I know Evan has never done anything that I really hated. Dork and Milk and Cheese were two of the funniest books ever, but for some reason I had always avoided reading this series. Maybe it was the pirate idea, maybe it was science fiction aspect to the whole thing, or maybe it was because I had gotten the impression that he was taking the whole thing too seriously. Whatever the case, well, it looks like I was right to not jump right into this series with both feet. It’s the story of a ragtag (is there any other kind?) band of misfits trying to make some money in space, essentially. It’s not that it’s a bad book, because it’s not. I just didn’t think it lived up to the other, funnier stuff that he had done. Of course, this is his early work and maybe he just had to find his rhythm.
Whenever I’m in a really crappy mood and it seems like nothing is ever going to get better, I turn to Milk and Cheese. Or Magic Whistle by Sam Henderson, if I’ve read Milk and Cheese already too recently. You’d have a hard time finding a funnier book than this… well, at least until the collected Dork comes out, which I’ve heard is going to be some time this year. Does it have a point, social commentary, anything like that? Not really. Maybe there are a couple of accidental statements about TV and Merv Griffin, but past that it’s pure, unadulterated mayhem. Brutal sometimes, too. If you ever feel low and those crappy feel-good Hollywood movies just aren’t doing it this time, you could do a lot worse than to get a copy of this.