Reviews: curses! Foiled agin! Dastardly & Muttley #1
Dastardly & Muttley #1,
Garth Ennis, Mauricet, John Kalisz, Rob Steen,
I’m normally not into comics based on – here more inspired by – TV cartoons, much as I love some of those cartoon shows; the comics versions never feel the same to me. And Dastardly and Muttley? Oh yes, I loved them in the Wacky Races and Flying Machines, and I loved Dick’s pastiche of Terry Thomas as a perfect screen cad and bounder. But a new comic featuring them? Ah, but it’s not the cartoon versions we loved as kids – and it is Garth Ennis, no less, writing it, so in a burst of curiosity I picked a copy up from the racks this week for a look. Come now, be honest, more than a few of you were kinda curious too, weren’t you?
Well things certainly start with a bang. A blooming big bang, in this case – a nuclear explosion in a new power plant in “Unliklistan”. A few days later USAF airmen Lt Colonel R Atcherly (“Dick”) and Captain D Muller (“Mutt”) are detailed to overfly the area for observation, and also tasked with finding a remote-piloted drone previously sent in for reconaissance, which failed to come back. Flying into an area bordering hostile states who would love to take a potshot at them, plus the fear of an irradiated airspace is stressful enough, but add to that Dick and Mutt are bickering like a tetchy old married couple. Dick is less than happy that Mutt has brough his pet dog with him on a mission. Naturally the dog is having a great time, paws and nose up against the canopy and clearly wishing that fighter jets had roll-down windows like cars, so he could stick his head out.
The two are somewhat taken aback when their sensors show a bogey closing on them from the rear – a radar blip which turns out to be War Pig One, their missing drone craft. Given it went missing several days prior to their mission it is clearly impossible for it to still be in the air, and yet there is. And as it flies past them it trails a colourful exhaust gas of some sort, full of odd symbols (lightning bolts, skulls, exclamation marks – cartoon “swears” and emoticons, basically). And when it does that to their craft, strange things start to happen. Very, very strange things. Not just the plane losing power and diving, but the pilot’s joystick suddenly turns into a steering wheel and horn, of the very cartoony variety, like something from the Wacky Races, and then the strange transformations seem to start affecting both men’s bodies too.
It’s a strange hybrid this one, with a bit of the Roger Rabbit DNA in there – mixing a “real world” (well, comics real world) with the outlandish cartoony reality, here the strange gas the rogue drone emits creating some weird effect that starts to alter objects like the plane and people like the pilots (even the ejector seats now come with huge “sproingggg!!” springs on them). And on recovering in an air force hospital Dick is left wondering why they won’t tell him what happened to Mutt and who the strange men from intelligence are and what is it about odd effects they are demanding he explain… Despite being wary of this, I ended up enjoying Dastardly & Muttley’s first issue, and even laughed out loud several times. I also appreciated the way Ennis and Mauricet created an explanation for things becoming cartoonised. A fun approach, much more fun than I anticipated to be honest; silly, of course, but in the good way.
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