Friday, March 1, 2019

Minis: Brandon Lehmann's Womp Womp

Brandon Lehmann's Womp Womp is a magazine-size mini that shows off his solid gag chops on page after page. He's at his best when he digs into a subject and then comes at its concept from a variety of different angles. The funniest strip in the book is "Double Dragon," which posits the existential question of what video game flunkies do to pass the time when they're waiting for the heroes to come fight them. In this particular case, I spent a lot of hours playing that game years ago, and so I was familiar with the flunkies in question. There's one guy holding a knife, yearning for someone to throw it at. There's another guy perpetually holding a barrel over his head, who would put it down if he wasn't known as "the barrel guy," where "the pain in my muscles lets me know that I'm truly alive." Lehmann nails the awkwardness of their poses while strip-mining the concept for every laugh he can.

"Bad Veterinarian" takes that titular premise and runs with it. It's not just that the vet, in this case, is bad; but his relentless and clueless cheerfulness is also maddening. After mistaking a cat for a dog, he goes on to ask the customer if he should do some shots and then suggests putting the cat to sleep. The contrast of the increasingly angry and baffled customer and the blissfully clueless vet drives the humor. Lehmann deliberately uses a static character design and layout style in order to create this particular comedic rhythm, with eight panels per page. When the customer's eyes start to bulge in rage and disbelief, the vet's dull eyes heighten the gag.

"True Cat Confessions" is an extended riff on a cat's shame and eventual acceptance in using a litterbox, complete with a desert dream sequence. "Some Random Guy Falls Into An Abstract Nihilistic Misery Hole" is exactly as advertised, complete with a being telling the guy that everything is meaningless. It winds up being a commercial for Subway sandwiches. There's a comic about a cool cop trying to peddle the notion of going back to using flip phones in what winds up being an ad. There's an exaggerated, lengthy story of a stereotypical rich dandy being forced to wash dishes and then recalling the incident. Lehmann's comics border on being shaggy-dog stories at times, which works better in some instances than others. That said, the cumulative effect of those strips makes the comic greater than the sum of its parts, with that relentless but dry conceptual absurdity creating expectations for greater silliness on every page. There's a deliberate stiffness to the art that's off-putting at times, but Lehmann varies his approach enough that it's not a distraction. Lehmann definitely shows the potential to be an excellent humorist in the vein of Michael Kupperman or Martha Keavney.

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