COMICS: John’s Double Shot of BOOM!

Since the next two books in my to-review pile are from BOOM! Studios (publisher of 2 Guns and Talent, among many other fine works,) I thought I’d review them together.  After all, what company is more suited to a “double-shot” than one called “BOOM!”?

Cover Girl

Cover Girl

First up is Cover Girl, written by Eureka creator and BOOM! founder Andrew Cosby & BOOM! regular Kevin Church, illustrated by 2 Guns‘ Mat Santolouco.  This action-comedy is jam-packed with big-budget action and Hollywood satire, emulating the best parts of summer blockbusters while revelling in self-mockery.  On the small screen, it would be right at home on USA’s original series lineup alongside Burn Notice and Psych. In fact, Burn Notice fans can play a fun little game by imagining how Jeffrey Donovan and Gabrielle Anwar would play the roles of the main characters (hey, I had fun imagining it!)

Cover Girl‘s story is as follows: Aspiring actor Alex Martin rescues a stranger from a near-fatal car accident, and suddenly finds his luck is beginning to change.  His story makes the national news, and a movie studio wants to exploit his fime by having him play a super-spy in their upcoming summer blockbuster.  Somebody wants Alex dead, though, so the studio hires Rachel Dodd to be his cover girl (acting both as bodyguard and arm-candy.)  Alex and Rachel rub elbows with the Hollywood glitterati while trying to outwit a hihgly dangerous hit squad.  Car chases, witty banter and big explosions ensue.

Cover Girl is the comic book equivalent of a popcorn flick, but its sense of humor helps it stand out from the summer blockbusters it lovingly imitates.  The cast are all-too-aware of how cliche their situation is, and the dialogue between Alex and Rachel is more in line with the aforementioned USA television shows than the typical *coughJerryBruckheimercough* action flick.  It also has a surprising amount of heart for a story of its type (most keenly evidenced by the way the main characters are so kind to and considerate of their respective mothers.) I would wager that Cosby has been to La-La-Land more than once (he had to work on Eureka somewhere!), as the book gives off a strong Hollywood vibe.  It’s none too kind to Encino, however.

Mat Santolouco’s art is just as compelling as it was in 2 Guns, though his rendition of Rachel started out a bit rough.  It polishes up within the span of one issue, however, and the rest of his characters are fantastic.  It’s fun to see how he draws the various real-world celebrities that make cameo appearances (though no explicit name-checks are ever used) and the action is drawn even clearer, tighter and more compelling than in 2 Guns.  My only real visual complaint is with the book’s colors, which rely a little too heavily on Photoshop gradients for my taste.  But hey, not everyone can be Dave Stewart or Ronda Pattison.

Cover Girl is fast, funny, action-packed and clever.  Its pace is almost too fast, but Cosby & Co. have done well with the “leave ’em wanting more” technique that makes sequels such a wonderfully easy possibility.  In fact, I would argue that a Cover Girl ongoing would be a perfect fit if the market would sustain it.  If you enjoy comics that feel like movies or TV shows, as well as big-budget action blended with tongue-in-cheek humor, I highly recommend it.

Shmobots

The second “shot” of reviews from BOOM! Studios is Adam Rifkin and Les Toil’s Shmobots, an unusual and amusing blend of Half-Baked and I, Robot. Rifkin and Toil ask us to imagine a world where engineers had the brilliant idea to staff an entire city with tireless, emotionless robot workers, but accountants insisted on low-bidding contractors to construct them.  These lazy, misanthropic mechanical shmoes have been nicknamed “shmobots,” and consider themselves to be the last (and most) oppressed minority in the country.  For those who are familiar with slacker robots in popular fiction, imagine a city full of Benders and Clangos. On the BOOM! Studios website, Rifkin explained where the idea for Shmobots originated:

The idea for SHMOBOTS came to me in a flash of thinking that it might be funny to see a group of pot smoking, slacker robots incompetently try to pick up a hooker. At first I considered writing it as a short film, but then I couldn’t help but feel that there was a bigger idea to explore. The bigger idea being that of a whole subculture of stupid, pot smoking robots who don’t work, don’t contribute to society in any productive way, but have an offensive sense of entitlement.

Needless to say, this book is not for children.  The shmobots swear like drunken sailors, though thankfully the team that censored those controversial issues of All Star Batman and Robin, The Boy Wonder had nothing to do with this project.  There are sex jokes and vomit jokes a’plenty, all placing this somewhere in the objectionability range alongside typical “stoner” comedies.  Sadly, there’s very little else of merit beyond the initial gags.  The racism allegory has potential, but is even more of a joke than in the last ten years’ worth of X-Men comics.  The overall plot seems out of place, and the subplot about a family dealing with infidelity (Wifey’s sleeping with a shmobot!) ends up being far more interesting, only being hampered by its need to connect to the rest of the story.  The whole book feels a bit like a latter-day SNL spin-off movie: a one-joke sketch stretched to feature length.

Thankfully, there is a bright spot in Les Toil’s artwork.  Each shmobot reflects more personality in its design than in its words or actions, and the few action beats that occur are rather visually entertaining.  The inks are solid without being clunky, and the colors make otherwise boring scenes pop with vibrance and excitement.  The details for products and signs are also clever, hiding many smaller jokes for re-readers or readers who are bored with the main story.

Shmobots is a story that should have been a one-shot comic rather than a trade paperback.  Rifkin’s humor, dialogue and characterization are at their best when going for the simple laugh and not attempting to develop a larger, more serious plot.  Toil’s artwork is enjoyable and entertaining, but the story calls for very little in the way of visual excitement.  I would recommend that anyone who is interested in the premise (as I was, and still am) visit BOOM!s website, where the entirety of Shmobots can be read online for free.  If you really like it, by all means visit your local comic shop and pick up the trade.  If not, so much the better for your wallet.

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2 Responses

  1. Hey, I was Cover Girl‘s scripter – Andy Cosby gave me the series outline and let me go to town on it – and I’d just like to say thanks for the kind words! We wanted to make something different and while I’d not seen Burn Notice prior to writing Cover Girl but your comparisons are both accurate and flattering. We wanted to make something a bit different than the cookie-cutter action comics that are out there and I’m happy that you appreciated the difference!

  2. Thanks for the comment, Kevin, and keep up the great work!

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