Friday, October 23, 2015

Thirty Days of Short Reviews #23: Weird Crime Theater

Kumar Sivasubramanian and Mulele Jarvis' Weird Crime Theater collection is exactly the sort of book I used to see at SPX, circa 1998. It follows the adventures of assassin/warriors/subcontractors "Granny" Kinkade and Melissa the Conqueror as they battle a variety of supervillains, monsters, time-travelling figures who disappeared from history and other assorted genre spoofs. Granny is drawn with a huge pompadour, while Melissa is drawn with Top Cow-style panty shots as a Strong Female Heroine, a cross between a high school girl in uniform and Conan the Barbarian. That sort of thing was good for a mild chuckle once or twice, but an entire book worth of this sort of thing was truly a slog to get through.

The barrage of pop culture and occasional historical references are done no favors by the hyper-stylized drawings of Jarvis. While the actual figure drawings are sometimes clever, their relation to each other in space is frequently so cluttered and unclear that it's occasionally difficult to discern what's happening in a given panel. Perhaps the oddest thing about this comic is that it features a guest appearance by Cerebus, drawn and lettered by Dave Sim. It's a riff on Cerebus-in-retirement (wearing a robe), acting as an informant for Granny, and it does provide a moment of genuine weirdness in a sea of routine decapitations, disembowlings, and other hack-and-slash mayhem capped with attempts at witty dialogue in the form of puns. The essential problem with the book is that its smartass, ironic breeziness undermines the attempt to present a clever, coherent genre narrative. At the same time, it simply isn't funny enough to deal with all of the genre clutter.

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