Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
A comic built around a joke about Zeus not being able to keep it in his pants? SOLD!
Hybrid Bastards! began as a “normal” comic in that single issues were being released as part of a mini-series back in those heady days of 2007. Then Archaia imploded and this series, along with many others, disappeared into a financial miasma, possibly never to return. Archaia got its shit together, and recently they’ve been releasing some of those old series in collected form, because they’ve been finished for some time, just never released. Hybrid Bastards! is the latest. It’s the brain child of Tom Pinchuk, who writes, and Kate Glasheen, who draws. Shawn DePasquale is along for the ride as letterer, and this edition costs $17.95. Archaia’s books have always been a bit pricier than you might want them to be, but they put them in a really nice package, and this hardcover, with an extra bit about Greek mythology and an unrelated short story about the common cold (really!) is not an exception to that.
I enjoyed the first two (of three) issues, back when I read them in 2008, but as a whole, Hybrid Bastards! is mildly disappointing. Pinchuk has a pretty good hook – Hera gets peeved that Zeus is boinking all these nubile young ladies, so she and Hypnos (the god of sleep, not the god of the mind, as Hera calls him) put a spell on Zeus that, for one night, causes him to copulate with pretty much anything inanimate. As a result, several very strange kids were born – Corey, a giant sentient apple; Walter, a brick wall; Carmine, whose mother was, in actuality, a car; Cotton, a socklike grump; and Panos, who seems perfectly normal. Well, until you find out exactly how he was born. These characters are the hybrids bastards, of course, and as the main plot begins, they’re 18 years old and have been rejected by Zeus, so they wander the world, complete outcasts. Zeus is, in fact, trying to destroy them, so they turn the tables on him and take their revenge. That’s the gist of the story – they eventually get Zeus into court, but will they be able to convince a jury that the king of the gods is really a criminal? I’m certainly not telling!
The reason it’s a bit disappointing is because it feels very rushed. Pinchuk keeps the tone light, for the most part, but when he has to have someone betray the bastards (and someone does), it feels forced because we haven’t really gotten to know the characters all that much. Everything zips along, which should be fine for a book as silly as this one, but because Pinchuk doesn’t actually go for jokes, really, just a light tone, he has to rely more on characterization to make the book worthwhile. He paints the characters in broad strokes, so that the pathos of Corey (who is kind of pathetic) or the grumpiness of Cotton (who just wants to be left alone to pursue a law degree) or the manliness of Panos (whose manliness, we learn, is genetic) become simply stock traits, and we never really care all that much about the bastards. The plot, which is kind of goofy, isn’t strong enough to carry us through, and while it’s a fun comic to read, it’s kind of forgettable. Pinchuk, interestingly, brings up several themes that might be interesting to explore – the idea of family and what it means; the fact that the bastards are, after all, freaks, yet they perservere; the idea of worship and what that means in a father/son relationship (it’s probably not a coincidence that all the bastards are male) – all of these are vaguely referenced in the book, but Pinchuk never digs too deep into them. In a book like this, it might be too dark to really get into them, but the fact that Pinchuk brings them up but doesn’t do anything but skate the surface is a bit disappointing. There’s an opportunity here for this to be a comedy and be memorable, but it remains just a silly comic. It’s too bad.
Glasheen has a sloppy and unique style, and she’s really a good reason to buy the book, if you’re interested. Her design work is stellar, as she makes us believe these characters are really a combination of weird objects and a god in the form of a human. She has a weird sense of humor in the design, matching the light-hearted tone of the book very well, and she makes all the characters loose and fluid, seemingly tossing them casually across the page. Her colors pop nicely, giving the entire book a bright, wild feel. Some of the pages are in the ancient Greek style, which is neat. The book is a visual treat, as Glasheen’s art simply doesn’t look like anything else you’ve seen.
I can only mildly recommend Hybrid Bastards! because it seems like Pinchuk had so many interesting ways to go with the story and he took a fairly routine one. You won’t hate Hybrid Bastards!, because you can tell the creators were having so much fun with it and Pinchuk’s hook is such an interesting one. I don’t know if either creator is planning on doing anything else, but it would be cool to see more of their work. Both Pinchuk and Glasheen have lively imaginations, and it would be neat to see them on something else.
Tomorrow: Brazilians! Look out for the Brazilians! They’re everywhere!
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