Sunday, December 16, 2018

Thirty One Days Of CCS #16: Steve Thueson, Ben Horak

Timothy Dinoman and Borsq, by Steve Thueson. Thueson mashes up genre comics with a punk rock ethos and emo melodrama, and these two comics see him branch out a bit from sword and sorcery comic. Borsq is a note-perfect Star Wars parody in the sense that it's about a bounty hunter going after a ne'er-do-well pilot. Thueson lays the visual supports on thick, with a spot red tone acting as creepy alien clouds and the color of the title character's cloak. He's made to cut a fearsome pose, until Thueson shrinks the panel size and zips the reader along quickly until he confronts his bounty target, Jake Caper. Caper is mooning over his ex-girlfriend, and the rest of the comic is split between hilarious dialogue about the ways he's trying to be OK with her seeing someone new and a running laser-gun fight and eventual daring escape. Thueson expertly meshes these together, understanding that all genre stories have melodrama at their core; he just gives the content of that melodrama a modern update.

Timothy Dinoman is a Bond-style spy caper with absolutely no context. That includes no explanation as to why the suave spy is an anthropomorphic dinosaur. It's a clever idea, because many action films are built around set pieces and have plot & dialogue added later. As a reader, we simply walked in in the middle of one of these set pieces, as the titular agent is chasing after a bad guy with a briefcase chained to his arm. Because it's a Thueson comic, there are also little comedic moments, like the spy needing to use a guy's phone. Mostly, this feels like an idea ("dinosaur spy!") that popped into Thueson's head, and he simply took it to its logical conclusion. At this point, I'd love to see Thueson tackle a long-form adventure in this vein. He knows how to push action while distracting the reader away from it with funny dialogue that deliberately feels borrowed from a different kind of story.

Daydreamin' Dave may be Horak's best comic yet. Fusing and undermining tired comedy tropes, absurd imagery and visceral, graphic horrific violence, Horak deliberately tries to create an unsettling but humorous experience for his reader. This comic starts with a Walter Mitty-esque fantasy vibe, as the titular Dave goes through his day fantasizing about various objects being alive and talking to him in a cartoonish way. There are still some weird close-ups that feature Horak's specialty (heavily hatched and labored art meant to act as a contrast to his rubbery, loose style), but it's more off-putting and weird than deliberately upsetting. Of course, Horak is playing the long game here, including adding tropes like a laugh track at the bottom of each panel where something "funny" is said. Horak keeps things under control with a steady nine-panel grid, which mitigates some of the stranger imagery.

Horak spends the first nine pages meandering, introducing us to Dave's world and acclimating the reader to this particular brand of magical realism. Then dopey Dave is introduced to a couple of bank robbers, and the various cartoonish characters he sees tell  him to be a hero. For his troubles, he gets shot right through the head in a two-page, grid-busting bit of visceral and graphic gore. It's a genuinely shocking scene, but then Horak makes everything from earlier in the comic pay off. The shooter makes a joke and starts to hear a laugh track. Every ridiculous thing that Dave saw and heard is experienced by this guy. The rest of the comic, as a result, is a relentless, hilarious and escalating nightmare. Every image and trope used in the first nine pages of the comic come back to torment the robbers in increasingly bizarre and fourth-wall breaking ways. Horak's command over his line was the key to making this work, because he had to nail every detail to draw the reader in before he completely flipped around the comic's premise.

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