Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Most Excellent: Carl's Large Story!!

Marcos Perez is a long-time mainstay of shows like SPX, cutting his teeth on a realistic comic series about relationships called Tear-Stained Makeup. Thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, he was able to collect his long-running web series, Carl Is The Awesome as Carl's Large Story!! This is a gloriously silly and ridiculous comic about a little dinosaur man with a beaver tail and his many adventures. Perez seems to be channeling Evan Dorkin's underlooked Bill and Ted's Excellent Comic from the 90s, a wonderfully overstuffed bit of nonsense that was all-kitchen sink, all the time. How much you'll enjoy this book depends on one's appetite for pure silliness stretched over 172 pages. Perez really makes all of this work because the heart of the book is the relationship between the titular Carl, a small dinosaur creature with a beaver tail, and Bill$ Murray, a warthog. Anthropomorphic characters and regular humans mix and match with no comment whatsoever in Perez's world, but the framing device of the importance of family and friendship ties the book together.

The plot follows Carl trying to piece his life together after he's ousted from the mayorship of Atlantic City but a corrupt villain of a businessman. Meanwhile, Bill$ is trying to find his birth parents. All of the action in the book follows that duo on their quest and the parade of thugs thrown in their path as well as the people they meet on the way. There is lots and lots of silly shouting in this book from characters like Elbow Bruce (who's looking to sell elbow jewelry), L'rac (Carl's French-Canadian private detective cousin), Shout Trout (a rapping fish), Vampire Tom Jones and a couple of dozen more. The plot of the book is less important than the jokes which are grounded in character interaction and genuine emotion. When Carl is confronted on his bullshit by Bill$, it leads to their friendship fracturing before Carl realizes that he's right. Above all else, Carl's non-stop shouting about himself and others, declaring things to be super-sick, awesome, etc manages to be funny for an entire book. Perez's real accomplishment in this book is creating a dumb character who says silly things and making the reader care about him and his friends. Because the reader cares, they are invested in what happens to them in their adventures as well as what happens to their relationships. Perez pulls this off because he lays enough character development down that's not just a punchline to give the characters a bit of heft, absurd though it may be. He also fills up each page with eye pops and frantic detail the way that Dorkin does, varying his character design while managing to keep his pages clear and easy to navigate. The eye wants to soak in the silliness on the page precisely because Marcos does a nice job leading the eye from panel to panel and page to page.

On a completely different note, Perez also sent along the first minicomic issue of Sovereign State, which takes yet another different turn in styles. Perez here is using a naturalistic, spare line heavy on grey-scaling and atmosphere. The story is a mix of post-apocalyptic survival and futuristic procedure, with a lot of info-dump dominating the first issue. I'll be curious to see what Perez winds up doing with this idea.

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