Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Comic #5 Harold Buchholz, Joel Hodgson, Matt McGinnis, Seth Robinson, Mary Robinson, Sharon Volpe (Writing); Mike Manley, Todd Nauck Jack Pollock, Mimi Simon (Art); Wes Dzioba, Mike Manley, Jack Pollock, Mimi Simon (Colors); Michael Heisler (Letters); Todd Nauck with Wes Dzioba (Cover) Dark Horse Comics March 20th, 2019 There’s one thing
Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Comic #5
Harold Buchholz, Joel Hodgson, Matt McGinnis, Seth Robinson, Mary Robinson, Sharon Volpe (Writing); Mike Manley, Todd Nauck Jack Pollock, Mimi Simon (Art); Wes Dzioba, Mike Manley, Jack Pollock, Mimi Simon (Colors); Michael Heisler (Letters); Todd Nauck with Wes Dzioba (Cover)
Dark Horse Comics
March 20th, 2019
There’s one thing I have to hand to Dark Horse’s Mystery Science Theater 3000 comic series—it knows how to keep the show’s smart-alecky sense of humor alive, even if it doesn’t always successfully translate that humor to the page.
When we last left our intrepid crew of comic explorers, Synthia had invented a Robot Extruder that produced said giant, menacing bubbles that track the progress of the bots and the popularity of the issues they’re transmitting.
In our continuing stories, Tom Servo continues to be a Teen Reporter (think the Hardy Boys meet your average romance comic) and he and his “girlfriend” Shelley have been shot down while escaping their pursuers in their biplane. They’re stuck in the woods waiting for rescue—which comes in the form of kidnappers who hold them ransom until Shelley’s rich father pays up.
Meanwhile, Jonah is having the time of his life in Black Cat (think Brenda Starr meets Catwoman), fighting crime, filing news reports and solving mysteries. When Kinga and Max show up to spoil his party, Max soon falls for Linda, and Kinga tries to parlay her new business opportunity into a movie appearance.
It all end with a brand-new EC/Tales from the Crypt-esque horror story in which Crow (and Kinga) discover something special about Crow’s ability to effect actions within the events of the panels.
Many parts of the series work well. The very careful way the artists and colorists create original material from the public domain work they’re parodying feels natural and flows quite well, right down to the faded vintage-looking colors of the panels and the way Jonah and Kinga seamlessly blend into their 40s-era universe.
The Jonah parts of the issue are the funniest, if only because the way it tweaks the old Hollywood-siren-fights-crime story into something fresh, and it makes Jonah engaging in ways that he isn’t in the show. Tom’s continuing melodrama with his fake girlfriend is funny mostly due to the sight gag of his big, bubbly robot head replacing the human face of Shelley’s in-universe boyfriend’s. The overall running gag where they’re continuously haunted by a Totino’s Pizza Rolls sponsorship no matter which universe they’re in is a lot of fun.
But sometimes the humor of the show doesn’t quite translate itself full-blooded to the page. For instance, the way the comic handles the riffing process in-universe is a bit odd. Often, sarcastic thoughts bloom in character’s thought bubbles. It’s a notion that works when you’re making fun of a movie aloud and speaking FOR these characters, but would they, in this universe, as themselves, really be thinking such strange things about themselves? When sometimes meta comments emerge right from the characters’ mouths it works even less (as when Shelley says aloud that she and Tom are glowing bright green, a vintage old school “lighting” trick in old comics). Thankfully it manages to bring off some good jokes in spite of these limitations. The book’s sight gags, for instance, are top notch.
As I said, Mystery Science Theater 3000 #5 is at its best when its smart alleckyness shines through. With a little more wheel tightening in the logic department, this one could surpass all of my expectations.