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Life in Vaistron – evil shouldn’t be this much fun!

Andrew Dabb recently sent me all five issues of his mini-series, Vaistron ($2.95 each, published by SLG), and I’m very appreciative.  In case you don’t know, I have been flogging his other mini-series, Atomika, since it started, and I missed Vaistron when it came out and was probably going to see if it was collected before getting it.  Now that I have it, I can tell you whether it’s worth seeking, either in the back-issue boxes or if it ever gets the trade paperback treatment.

I should mention that this post, not unlike the comic book, is not suitable for children.  Kids, go blow people up on your video games and look away!  Now!  Okay, to continue: is it worth it?

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The short answer is yes. Vaistron is a hoot. And when I say “hoot,” I mean it, damn it!  It grabs you on the very first page, from the very first panel, even (when our point of view comes in from outer space toward earth and we pass by an skeletal astronaut floating in the void with the name tag “Major Tom”), and never lets go.  We first meet our protagonist, Gabriella Bukowsky, when she is just a kid.  Her mother, a prostitute, gets killed in the first few pages, and so does Gabby.  But fret not!  In Vaistron, the technology to re-animate people exists, so, as the text says, “One re-animation, three titanium plates, six surgeries, thirteen convictions, and twenty years later,” we catch up with Gabby, who is a misanthropic (to put it mildly) young woman who hijacks flying cars and does other horribly illegal things for money.  She gets the idea to kidnap Magdalena Raeder, the mistress of Alexander Bates, one of the richest men in town.  She stashes Magdalena at her place with her robot mechanic, Rekoton, to watch her.  Meanwhile, she incurs the wrath of the freeminds, who have voluntarily given up their heads because all evil comes from the head.  Gabby would piss anyone off, however, and they ignore their tenets of peace and love because they want to kill her.

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Magdalena escapes because Rekoton is horny for her and she uses that to flee through the bathroom window.  However, she falls deep underground, where the cannibals live.  And yes, they eat her.

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But fret not!  Remember, they can bring you back to life in Vaistron, and that’s what Gabby does – right about the time she finds out that Bates is offering 100,000 (dollars?) to anyone who brings Magdalena back and kills the kidnapper … which is 40,000 more than Gabby was asking for a ransom.  Bates doesn’t want to pay the ransom, but he doesn’t want people to think they can steal from him, either.  Magdalena suggests that Gabby claim the money and frame Bates’ personal assistant, a woman named Nix who hates all of Bates’ mistresses.  Meanwhile, the two competing police forces, the Cripo and the Sepo (there is a lot that is reminiscent of Nazism in this book, including the mayor who looks like Hitler), plus every bounty hunter around, are all out looking for Gabby.  She sneaks into Bates’ place to plant incriminating evidence against Nix, but she is caught and has to pretend she’s one of the bounty hunters.  Bates pairs her with Indestructible Rob, who’s, well, indestructible, a moron, and has certain … predilections.  See if you can guess what they are!

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While Gabby’s away, Magdalena seduces Rekoton and gets him to call the cops and turn Gabby in.  Then, of course, she splits again.

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Gabby is captured and tortured, but escapes.  By now everyone in the city is after her, and she leaps off the roof of the police station and falls all the way down into a pile of meat that the cannibals have eaten.  Magdalena goes back to Bates, who rejects her.  Gabby survives the cannibals and tells Rekoton that he can square with her if he helps her kill everyone.  This sets up the bloody finale, where everyone gets pretty much what they deserve.  Rob’s fate is particularly gruesome (but I’ll keep it a secret because it’s so much fun).

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This is a ridiculously over-the-top comic book, and it revels gleefully in its evil.  But it remains tongue-in-cheek throughout, and Dabb does a fine job of never taking his foot off the throttle.  Other fun books out there occasionally engage in the slightest bit of mawkishness and sentimentality, but Dabb doesn’t, and it’s nice to see.  Vaistron has a touch of Transmetropolitan about it, with its futuristic city with wild technology, hedonism, and bizarre hero-worship (as I mentioned, Nazism is apparently big in Vaistron).  Ellis’ work is superior, but in a way, Vaistron is a lot more fun, because of its relentless debauchery.  It probably wouldn’t work if Dabb stretched it out for longer, but for five issues, it works perfectly.

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I have been admonished recently (with good reason) for not concentrating enough on the art of books.  Boussourir, of whom I know nothing, is perfectly suited for this kind of story.  Basically, this is “Itchy and Scratchy” in comic book form, so the art must be wild and frenetic and willing to be completely gross while still remaining slightly goofy.  I’ve included several samples that tell the tale of the art better than I can, so I hope it mollifies everyone.  Dabb and Boussourir fill Vaistron with wonderful details, from Major Tom on the first page to the geeks at the comic book store (Dabb gets points just by calling a character “Boba Felch”) to the “snug fit condoms” to the Gay Sperm Bank – it’s all there, it’s all terribly offensive to everyone, and it’s all hilarious.  This is certainly no masterpiece, but it’s a great ride all the same.

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There’s really no socially redeeming value to this comic book.  I would say fans of Nextwave should pick this up, but Nextwave is a bit tame compared to it.  It wallows in filth, and loves every second of it.  It’s a pure blast of adrenaline and insanity.  Come on, where else can you find a panel parodying Picasso’s classic painting Guernica as well as my new favorite phrase in the same issue?

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Answer: no where else.  That’s why you should get Vaistron!

One Comment

Thanks for the kind words, Greg. I’m glad someone got that Guernica reference.

For those of you intrigued by this review and heading to San Diego this week, copies of the entire VAISTRON mini-series will be available at the Slave Labor Graphics booth, and I’ll be signing there every day as well.

For those of you intrigued by not hitting SD, you can order V online at http://store.slavelabor.com/

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