Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Comics: New moon. Go ahead Hachette, sue me.

One of the viral marketing campaigns for now cult fave Idiocracy involved a series of Youtube adds for the fictional power drink Brawndo: the Thirst Mutilator. Brawndo was basically the Gatorade of future. The ads for this drink deliver the ha-has by giving the viewers the sense that the ad's narrator has been told to just keep delivering the message that Brawndo is ninety-million times greater than awesome, but he hasn't been told how long the ad is. Consequently, the dude narrating the ads finds himself repeatedly painted into corners, forced to just keep shoveling on the awesome-sauce reductio ad absurdum.

The fun of Werewolves of the Moon: Versus Vampires follows the same entertainingly desperate logic. Even the title, with it's post-colon promise of vampire conflict, exhibits the same "but wait, there's more" carnival barker commitment to total entertainment: "Werewolves – right? – in space! But, on the moon, so they're always werewolves! But wait! Versus freakin' vampires! That's right!" And then there's the cover that shows a werewolf planting an American flag on the moon's surface, through the body of a vampire. If Michael Bay had made the Underworld movies, one imagines they would have been filled with shots that look like the cover of Werewolves on the Moon.

I can only assume that Dark Horse comics told the creators, Dave Land and the Fillbach Brothers, that they should save the attack by a ghost pirate ship full of zombie T. Rexes for the sequel.

Written with the same light, juvenile, and goofy logic of a contemporary Mad magazine parody, the book starts with a premise not unlike Steve Niles landmark vampire comic 30 Days of Night. In the distant future, a trio of werewolves attack a moon colony. (Whether they thought that it would just be fun to rampage through a closed system of human victims or they believed that being on the moon would up their power levels is unclear – the latter is implied but then dismissed by one of the characters.) Unlike 30 Days however, this story is played for laughs. There werewolves immediately run afoul Moon Base Alpha's tough-as-nails security captain, who locks them in the ship bay with all the passengers they've already bitten and turned into werewolves.

The story gets needlessly complicated when the moon's vampire population – a cult of preening goth hipsters living in caves on the dark side of the moon – decide to get involved. Their leader, the self-aggrandizing Lord Till, thinks the lycanthropic crisis is the perfect time to snatch away his immortal beloved, who is also, somehow, the tough-as-nails security chief.

This all sounds more complicated than it is. The narrative of the book isn't driven by logic so much as it is built out of system of gleefully daffy synecdoches. Being in the story is justification enough for any given element. We all know where we're going – the promised "versus" is on before the last page of the first issue – so as long as everything just tends towards that direction, the story bounces along. This lack of story logic is actually spoofed with in comic. After the first vampire attack, one of the werewolves questions why the vampires would attack them in the first place. He's told that vampires and werewolves are natural enemies, but that explanation is quickly undercut by the confession that said theory was devised when the werewolves thought vampires were fictional monsters and it was mostly said because it sounded awesome to lady werewolves.

The art is suitably cartoonish. The Bros. Fillbach have a good time with the canine expressiveness of their werewolf characters and they're up to the task of actually grounding the story in a sufficiently solid setting to prevent it from losing its way. If I have any complaint about the art, is the lack of "chicken fat." While the writing attempts to work some gag into almost every panel, the art takes a light, but straight forward approach that seem unnecessarily literal. If the backgrounds had been as busy with sight gags as the Mad parody that partially inform this work, it would have given the book a nicely anarchic edge.

Werewolves on the Moon: versus Vampires suffers somewhat from a hefty price tag: three and a half Washingtons. This is no small thing. Something as relentlessly silly as WotM:2V is best served format of the individual issue. Spread across three issues and served in little helpings, the comic never overstays it's welcome. Collected in a trade, the gags will start to grate. That said the $3.50 price tag is going to strike some folks as too much to pay for what is a breezy gag-book.


Sasquatchan said...

I guess I need to visit the local comix shoppe.. See what they'll give me for my vintage 80s collection of comics and see what's new out there..

Will the Mrs be stocking the graphic novels as well as books in her new place ? (and when did she get her own store ? good jerb!)

wiec? said...

i was going to splurge last wednesday and pick this up because of the cover and inside art. then i figured i'd just snap up the trade collection when it came out down the line. might rethink that.

sad thing is i think $3.50 might be the going rate soon for comics. which is too bad since people might gloss by a book like this and play it cheap (like me). thanks for the review and not being a cheapskate.

Curt Purcell said...

What I don't understand is why this is the first I've heard of it. Well, I'll see if I can turn it up tomorrow in one of the comic shops.

Anonymous said...

I love stuff like this. If you enjoyed this, check out "Nextwave", it has the same balls-to-the-wall, crazytown aesthetic.

- Zac