Ryan Browne is a genius, and you should read his books.

If there is one thing you should know about me, it’s that I like my humour weird. Okay, that’s a bit of a lie, as I highly regard Veep to be one of the greatest comedies ever, but I also enjoy Arrested Development and that is about as far from “standard” comedy one can get. Off in the fringes of comedies that are also brilliant is Garth Merengies Dark Place, a TV show intentionally bad set n a hospital and Danger 5, a super low budget comedy about a super group of 5 agents who team up to take down Hitler. In the first season, when ever some one was mortally wounded, they would often give out a perfect cocktail recipes. So you know, standard stuff.

If you’ve found yourself nodding along in agreement to these comedy choices and wondered if there was a comic book equivalent of said TV shows, then you’re in luck hypothetical reader, because I have just the recommendation for you. Ryan Browne, is a comic writer and artist who produced a series with Image comics called “God Hates Astronauts” which is difficult to explain just what it is about, because it won’t make sense and it’s better read fresh.

But what about the comedy, and how weird is it I hear you ask over your Carlos Sultana cocktail, while it’s not as weird as Tim and Eric, but it is weird, but it does have it’s own sense of logic. The second volume is where the story really gets going. It’s a series in which almost any thing can happen, from a cat wearing a jetpack who is also a lawyer, to a man with Gorilla Arms, to a Rhino with a moustache called Doctor Professor and a character called King Tiger eating a Cheeseburger, who is a king that is a tiger eating a cheeseburger.

If that isn’t crazy enough, he also has another book worth tracking down called “Blast Furnace: Recreational Thief” which again, is as crazy as G.H.A., but still full of heart. The book often goes off on tangents and while, it may not be as strong as some other books in terms of narative structure, it’s still a very funny book. Some characters are basically puns, like Owl Capone, who is a mobster, to Gnarles Winslow, who is based off Carl Winslow from family matter, but he has robot arms now. One major difference to a Ryan Browne book is that there is a list of suggested voices you can use to make the characters stand out in your head, from John C. Reily for Star Grass for example. It does the make the book better for it.

If you’re the type of person who enjoys Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men or even “shudders” The King of Queens, there is little you will enjoy in the books I’ve mentioned. If you’re looking for some thing different, and are willing to take a risk, then you could do worse then checking out either of Ryan Browne’s books.

Howard the Duck v 1 review (not to be confused with volume 0)

The record will show that I love Chip Zdarsky and Joe Quinones version of Howard the Duck pretty clearly. In fact, as I have stated before, if you asked me 4 years ago what my current favourite comics would’ve been, I think we can all agree that Howard The Duck wouldn’t of been in the top 30 at all, and yet here we are. So should you by the latest Howard the Duck trade? The answer, unsurprisingly is yes, yes you should. It’s funny, it’s sad and it’s amazing and generally speaking, the best thing we could’ve asked for. Here is why you should read Howard the Duck.

The story is emotionally hard hitting: The book starts off with an interesting idea, that being a talking Duck in the Marvel universe kind of sucks. People think he is an Alien and don’t treat him with respect. So Howard just wants to go home, which is fairly common with his book, but really that’s the entire theme of this book. Which ties in with the main plot of the book which is Howard gets the Living Nexus grafted to his body. All Howard wants to do is to leave this universe and go back home so he travels to Florida and tries to use the Nexus which unknowlingly gets grafted to his body.

Living Nexus, for those who don’t know is a portal basically that can take a person where ever they want to go. This makes him the most wanted Duck in the universe, with various Alien races, The Kree etc all coming after poor Howard. But even when he gets a chance to slip away, he knows that he can’t, as he has bonded with the Nexus, it is still apart of him and thus he will never have a quiet life again.

So with this serious matter the question remands is it a funny book? The answer to that is yes it is. Yeah humour is subjective but the book is really funny, or as funny as a book about a 4 foot tall talking duck can be. I won’t post any of the jokes, as to not ruin them, but just trust me on this. Chip manages to weave humour and heart throughout the story, with out getting too bogged in either camp. Chip Zdarksy’s wonderfully managed to walk the fine line either camp which can be difficult to pull off, as too many jokes undercuts the seriousness of the story and too few jokes makes for a rather dull read. In fact if you don’t get even a little choked up reading issue 2, then you most be a robot, or a future person who has stumbled upon this blog who has hd their empathy bred out of them and i am sorry that has happened to.

At the end of the day, it’s a book with a lot of heart and warmth. What could’ve been a crass money making ploy by Marvel has turned into one of the most heartfelt books on the stands. How can you not love Howard, his life is a mess, and yet he just keeps going on. We all have a little bit of Howard in us. Yeah he’s an annoying Duck, but that’s the point. How can you not when you’re the only talking duck around with no powers in a world where there Norse Gods and living WMDs. He shows us that even the littlest person (or duck) can still off and make a difference. He doesn’t want to help, but he knows he has to.

Howard the book, volume 1, not to be confused with volume 0 gets a hearty recommendation from me. It’s a brilliant book made even better thanks to the great crossover with Squirrel Girl.

IDW shared Universe, good idea or bad idea?

So in case you haven’t heard, IDW is planning a shared universe with it’s Hasbro properties. Transformers, G.I.Joe, Action Man, M.A.S.K. Rom and Micronauts will all be hanging out with each other for the foreseeable future at the local drive through, eating hamburgers and fries while telling stories about how they were hot properties back in the 80’s. Sadly though, Jem and the Holograms will not be included in this one, mostly because the idea would be unbelievable, but really though there is money on the table by having Jem crossover with G.I.Joe if only for the fact we’d get to see a Cold Slither story. The idea of a shared universe with IDW hasn’t come up before, but it’s not hard to see why. Each franchise has it’s own major characters, it’s own themes and so trying to combine them can be fraught with danger. As with most things, it’s important to wait to see the final product before we jump the gun, but below I’ll discuss how I see it coming out, both pros and cons.

Pros

So already the major selling point for me is that there will be another G.I.Joe title written by Aubrey Sitterson which is already a great thing. His work on the Street Fighter Vs G.I.Joe book is fantastic and being perfectly honest with you, will be leaps and bounds better than what Karen Travis did with her run on the title. Another great selling point that IDW has is the Transformers brand, which continues to be some of the best comics I’ve read in recent memory. Also add to the fact Action Man, M.A.S.K., Rom and Mirconaughts are getting comics means that the universe will be rather interesting.

M.A.S.K. in case you don’t know is sort of a bridge between Transformers and G.I.Joe, because it features vehicles that can transform, such as a car into a jet, a motor bike into a helicopter, a jeep into a boat etc. It was a neat concept that was made into a cartoon which featured an annoying kid with a silly robot because it was the 80’s. Out of all the titles, M.A.S.K. is the one I am most interested in checking out, because I know G.I.Joe is already in safe hands, as are the Transformer titles. I don’t know too much about Micronauts or Rom, only that they both had comics with other companies, with Rom finding a home at Marvel for quite some time, but due to legal reasons, couldn’t be named as such.

Cons.

The idea for the a shared universe looks good on paper, but my concern is how they will pull it off. They’ve gone on record and said that it’s no a reboot, which is fine, but how do you tie it all together. The G.I.Joe universes is practically a salted Earth thanks to an unnecessary time jump and poor story telling if you’re intention was to write a G.I.Joe story and not a politics based story. Even more troublesome is how you incorporate the others. The idea of Giant Robots running around the same time means that the Cobra and G.I.Joe war was so engrossing that no one noticed that New York was attacked by Megatron?

It also means that the die-hard Joe fans, the one who don’t want any sillier aspects of Sci-Fi invading their pristine title will be horrified that Megatron and Co. are now showing up, as well as the Micronauts Action Man and M.A.S.K. Honestly, I can’t really see them going for this idea to be perfectly honest, and I doubt that the G.I.Joe numbers will get above when they had Karen Traviss writing the title. The only way to do this well is to reboot the entire franchises, or at least set it elsewhere, which means that all the universe building would’ve been for naught in the end.

Myself, I’m excited for this, and I’ll try to pick up as many titles as I can afford, but for others, I can see why they may be opting to give this a wide pass.

G.I.Joe vs Aliens and or Predators.

Having read the recent release of the DC/ Aliens collected edition, the one that contains the Batman/ Aliens crossover, which consists of both volume one and two and the so-so Superman/Batman Vs. Predators/Aliens and the Wild C.A.T.s/ Aliens part as well made me think about if the G.I.Joe franchise could mix it up with the Aliens and Preadtors, and after having to think about it for about 5 minutes, I came back with a “hell yeah they could work” and picked up my phone to pitch my idea to Larry Hama.

G.I.Joe has always been leaning towards the sci-fi side of the literature spectrum whether anyone really wants to admit it or not. It does make sense, and while the book has rarely gone “full sci fi” the idea of cyborg ninja and clonning makes it come pretty close. If I were tasked on writing the crossovers, here’s how I would do it. Firstly, I’d separate them into two camps. Conventional logic dictates that Cobra would be trying to harness the Aliens while the Joes are hunted by the Predators. However, since the idea of some one trying to control the Aliens has been done to death and the idea of Joes versus Predators is basically the comic version of the movie Predator, you can see my reluctance on rehashing those stories.

So with that said, I’d pair the Joes with the Aliens, and us the forgotten toy line “Star Brigade” as the main protagonists of the series. Star Brigade didn’t really have much screen time, with only a handful of appearances from 146-148 of the original Marvel run. Even worse, they fought against robots on an asteroid that was headed on a collusion course to Earth. The robots were put there by a rogue Soviet scientist who wanted to use the asteroid to wipe out all human life. The G.I.Joe comics from 119 onwards were rather weird indeed.

Anyway so the story would be an out of continuity tale where Star Brigade go into space and enter a derelict ship that is passing by Earth, The 8 person crew discover the presence of Aliens and then all hell breaks loose. Because it’s an out of continuity story, it frees up characters to be killed, which is bad news for all the ozone fans out there, but it would add to the idea that no one is safe.

That leaves as with Cobra and the Predators, which would also be an out of continuity tale which takes place on Cobra Island during the civil war. But the difference is is that there isn’t any fighting going on yet, just a Mexican stand off of sorts. Cobra Commander will have the Baroness, Zartan and Storm Shadow and the other side will have Serpentor, Croc Master, Dr Mindbender and Firefly. Tensions are high on the island when a Predator drops down on the island and kicks off the civil war by accident, by killing some of Cobra Commander’s solders and then spends the next couple of issues dodging fire while collecting trophies. Both Cobra forces combine and manage to kill it before the Joe show up and arrest everyone, but not before we get to see Croc Master take a plasma bolt to the chest.

So that’s my take on what would happen with the next logical crossovers. Tune in next week where I’ll pitch the long await Back to the Future/ Transformers crossover idea.