Pop Culture Gadabout
Saturday, March 11, 2006
      ( 3/11/2006 11:45:00 AM ) Bill S.  

"I DO SO MUCH ENJOY DOLING OUT THE CHALLA-BALLOO" – Ah, the long-standing allure of hero monkeys in comic books: it goes back at least as far as 1952, when John Broome & Carmine Infantino (king of the gorilla cover!) gave us "Detective Chimp" as a back-up feature, and continues today. Over at AiT/Planet Lar, they've gone to the Big Monkey Barrel twice – first with Mantooth, than with Sky Ape. You can see why fannish comics writers would wanna play in this material: if, as one comedy theory has it, Monkeys in Suits are always funny, their goofy place in comic book history adds an extra layer of campiness to the proceedings. Big Monkeys are the New Monkeys!

The hero of Sky Ape isn’t (unlike Mantooth) fully decked out in a suit, of course; like Magilla Gorilla, a simple pair of pants will suffice, though in place of a Hanna-Barbera-ish hat and bow tie, we get a jet-pack and goggles. Sky Ape: King of Girls is the fourth self-contained book featuring our talking ape detective, but it's the first one in the series I've read. Gotta admit, when I first received it, I went into the book with some trepidation. I was not that enamored with Mantooth, after all, so there was a chance I could come out of this review being forever typed as the Blogger Who Doesn't Like Gorilla Comics. Which in comics fandom is practically akin to hating puppies.

I wound up succumbing to Sky Ape, though the sweaty energy with which the book’s three writers (Phil Amara, Tim McCarney & Mike Russo) work to generate The Funny often muffles the jokes. The wire-thin plot's a trifle: self-titled King of Girls Derrick Williamson takes a string of geeky guys and turns 'em into a pack of Love And Leave 'Em Lotharios. Sky Ape enlists the unnecessary aid of a super-group called Victory's 13 to stop Williamson, but the primary reason that they even show up in the book is to afford the writers pages to parody outdated superhero tropes – like a too-long scene where the supergroup "sounds off" before going into battle. Befitting this type of funnybook, there's an obligatory number of pop culture references, some of which read a few years out-of-date. (Is there even a point to making Alanis Morrisette jokes after Dogma?) But I dug most of the broader boyish humor in the King of Girls sequences – which makes the obvious point that most losers, if given the opportunity, would be just as dick-headed as the winners they currently envy. ("I'm writing a break-up poem for my girl," one of Williamson's spawn states. "What rhymes with 'I'm fucking your sister'?") Richard Jenkins' cartoony b-&-w art is a treat, too.

It's no Bobo, the Detective Chimp, of course, but then what is?
# |

Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

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