Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
John Karnes was nice enough to send me his mini-comic, Jerks In Space Incorporated’s Latest Mini-Comic: Science Edition (here’s the web site), which is one thin dollar – what a bargain for you!
Karnes is an interesting creator. His art is rough but nicely detailed, and the only thing that really bothered me about it was that his characters’ legs are often shorter than their torsos, which is disconcerting. He has some keen ideas, though, and his writing, while not polished, has a nice energy and attention to detail that makes it a good read. He also has a lot of fun in this comic, which translates well to the page and to the reader. The premise may be a bit ridiculous, but Karnes is having so much fun bringing it to us that we don’t mind. And although he steers the book into tragedy, the sense of ridiculousness remains, so we don’t take any of it seriously.
The story takes place on the moon, where an exterminator named Tom is called to a house (well, a dome) of a bunch of goofy wine drinkers when they discover a mouse in their abode. While there, Tom meets a girl named Nicky whom he digs. He finds a way to impress her when robots invade the colony, and then she helps fight the robots, so they bond over that. The robots’ overlords, strange creatures called space serpents (who look like vermicious Knids), plot their revenge. Things don’t go well from there.
The plot really doesn’t matter, of course, because it’s just a silly story – even the tragedy is treated as such. What the story does is allow Karnes to have some fun, and he does that. Tom and Nicky get to blast rather articulate robots, and Karnes gets to make sarcastic remarks about his own characters. He creates a religion – “sequentialism” – whose adherents believe they are characters in a comic book, which is somewhat brilliant, if you ask me. He lets us know that he loves Paul Pope’s art (well, duh) and that the moon’s gravity allows characters to have wackier hair than the guys in The Jesus and Mary Chain. The most amazing thing in the comic is how he explains the “science” behind the blasters and the electromagnetic pulse hand grenade that Tom uses. He’s really thought about how these weapons would work, from the reaction that causes sodium to decay into neon to the use of heavy water to slow down the explosion of the EMP grenade. It’s very impressive, and I appreciate it when a creator takes a lot of time to think about odd stuff like this.
Karnes also models the cover of this after the first comic he ever bought, The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe #7, and in the back of the book he does an entry for “space serpents,” giving us a lot of information about the villains of the book. All in all, this comic is 32 packed pages of wacky adventures, all for a buck. Head over to Karnes’ web site and give it a look!
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