Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Buckaroo Banzai: Big Size #1

Twenty-five years after he first arrived as the star of an eponymous feature-length film, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, our hero is back in the saddle again. Under the guiding influence of Mac Rauch and W.D. Richter, the same writers responsible for the aforementioned celluloid exploits, Banzai's adventures have picked up precisely where the film world left them without skipping a beat. A born renaissance man, he's a surgeon, a rock star, a noted physicist and a famed racecar driver all rolled into one. He's the counterpoint to James Bond, the intellectual equal of Albert Einstein and more than a physical match for both Lebron and Kobe.

Although Richter and Rauch's new tales may be set in another galaxy, ages from now, they're more Tombstone than Blade Runner. The majority of the plot centers on a wild pack of desert dwellers and Banzai's objections to their mule-poaching ways, and the title character doesn't even appear until the last pages of the issue. Though I think the point was to shock and surprise readers by building up his mystique a bit before his unexpected arrival, it really only serves to drag things out. Instead of racing straight into the action, most of this issue is spent setting up the players, listening to their idle chit-chat and waiting for the shit to hit the fan. On one hand, that gives us a chance to get to know the cast before they're thrown into the fire. On the other, I didn't find any of them interesting enough to share that much time with in the first place.

Paul Hanley isn't much of an artist. His work is dull and unfocused and his paneling is hard to follow. Although the issue's cold open offers him several opportunities to spread his wings and show us what he's got, Hanley completely misses the boat. When Banzai's sidekick, Perfect Tommy, throws a punch with "the wallop of a country mule," it looks more like a love tap. When the same character makes his escape from two-dozen armed gunmen moments later, it takes so much time that I wondered if maybe he managed to put them to sleep beforehand. God knows they wouldn't have been the only ones. Hanley has a major problem with pacing; actions that needn't fill more than one or two panels eat up six or seven. He illustrates every minute action, no matter how redundant and unnecessary, and that further slows down an already-crawling narrative. This isn't easy to read as it is, and the artwork only manages to make it worse.

While this book's premise likes to give the impression that it's a nonstop ride through a landscape of excess, the truth is it's more of a long, dreary, insignificant stroll. If you haven't already developed a relationship with this cast, it provides no inspiration to delve any deeper. This is an adventure that would've been best left untold. Skip it.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 1.5

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