Comic: "Ambush Bug Year None #1"
Published by: DC Comics
Written by: Giffen, Flemming
Plot: Ambush Bug investigates the murder of Joni DFC, continuity cop.
Review: It’s been four years since Ambush Bug last made anything more than a cameo appearance. That was in the Keith Giffen penned Lobo unbound. It’s been fourteen years since he last starred in a book, the one shot “Ambush Bug Nothing Special”. Twenty-two years ago was the last time the Bug had a miniseries.
Created by Giffen and frequent writing partner Robert Loren Fleming in 1982, the Bug began as a Superman Villain. He was always comic relief, but at first well within continuity. By the time he became a superhero two years later, he’d gone from goofy to insane. Appearing in Action Comics in ’95, trying to convince Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman to appear in his upcoming comic book mini series, the bug broke the fourth wall, becoming self aware, a comic device commenting on comics themselves.
In 85 and 86, Ambush Bug had two mini series which I remember finding hysterical. The first self-titled ‘Ambush Bug’ series took wide-ranging swipes at all sorts of comic book trends. In the first issue, Bug picked up a sidekick, a doll he dressed in a costume and called ‘Cheeks, the Toy Wonder’. Cheeks ‘died’ at the end of the issue, but Ambush Bug was pleased, since dead heroes boost sales.
The second series, ‘Son of Ambush Bug’ was more Meta. It ran at the same time ‘Crisis on Infinite Earths’ was unfolding, and served as commentary more than parody. Jonni DC, a female version of Johnny DC, a company mascot used by DC during the silver age, mostly in in-house ads. Jonni's sex change is courtesy of a cosmic entity known as ‘The interferer’, a comment on ‘The Monitor’ of Crisis. The Monitor supposedly… monitors, i.e. Does not interfere, but the main purpose of the Crisis was to ‘clean up’ DC’s confusing continuity, by radically altering it, kind of a big act of interference.
Over the last couple of years, DC has been undoing the work of ‘Crisis’, re-introducing the multiple world universe of the Silver Age. What more appropriate time for Giffen and Flemming to bring back the Bug?
More metafictional than ever, one ought to read Scott McCloud's awesome ‘Understanding Comics’ before digging into “Year None”. The ’85 mini series might only have been funny to comic book readers. The ’86 mini series was probably only readable, let alone funny, to serious fanboys who ought to be ashamed of how much they know about comic book history. In the time since then, the graphic novel has become an accepted American art form. This new mini series, at least the first issue, comments on how the cultures attitude towards comics has changed. Not only must you know a great deal about comic history to get many of the gags, you really need an intimate knowledge of how graphic storytelling functions. It’s Meta, Meta, Meta, leaping from being just for Uber geeks to being for egghead college professors teaching graduate classes in comics as art form.
I really liked it, but it’s very obscure, and deserves a panel-by-panel commentary or footnotes, or a companion book that explains each reference. Hitting by turns on popular comics recent misogynistic slaughter of female heroes, the mod art movement in late sixties, early seventies comics and evolving trends in how narration and thought are conveyed textually and graphically, it’s a tour de force for nerds. The target audience for this book is Art Spiegalman.
I don’t know if that’s great or alarmingly self indulgent, but I really loved it. I think maybe I should be ashamed.
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)
|Jonni DC, a female version of Johnny DC, a company mascot used by DC during the silver age, mostly in in-house ads.|
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