Sunday, May 5, 2013

Book Review: The Middlman - The Collected Series Indispensability by Javier Grillo-Marxuach

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fun and imaginative comic book.
Cons: Not as rich as the TV series.
The Bottom Line:
Launched fun TV show
Doesn't quite have the detail
But fans will enjoy

Fighting Evil So You Don't Have To

Okay, so that was the tagline of the TV series incarnation of The Middleman.  But that series is why I picked up this collection of comic books.  I absolutely fell in love with the quirky humor of the series, and I wanted to see how it all got started.  For those like me who haven't been reading the comic adventures all along, The Middleman: The Collected Series Indispensability is the perfect way to catch up, too.

Basically, this book collects all the comics written in this series to date.  From some stuff in it, I think this incarnation is finished.  For one thing, the book ends with a coda to the series done by a fan.  That idea is a bit disappointing because the last official story leaves us with a bit of a shock.

The premise is simple.  Wendy Watson has just graduated from college and is working as a temp until her art career takes off.  Through a series of events, she comes to be employed by the Jolly Fats Wehawkins Temp Agency, which is really a cover for an organization too secret to know (or O2STK) that fights evil in the world around us.  You know, things like monsters, aliens, global plots to take over the world.  There are been three stories published about Wendy's adventures as the Middleman's apprentice, and all three are here.

Up first is "The Trade Paperback Imperative."  In it, we meet Wendy Watson and learn how she came to be the apprentice to The Middleman.  The mission in this book is to fight evil apes who watch gangster movies and are plotting to take over the world.

Next is "The Second Volume Inevitability."  Wendy is going to get training in martial arts from master Sensei Ping, that is until he is kidnapped by a gang of masked Mexican wrestlers out for revenge.

Finally comes ""The Third Volume Inescapability."  While Wendy struggles with balancing her art career and her new job saving the world, The Middleman gears up for a battle with their arch nemesis, F.A.T.B.O.T. (that's Federated Agents of Tyranny, Betrayal, and Oppression's Yoke).  This one ends quite differently than anything we saw on the TV show.

The third volume might not have even been turned into an episode, but the other two were.  The first volume was the pilot, and the second was an early episode.  Frankly, that was one of my disappointments with this book.  I already knew what was going to happen.  And since there were 12 episodes on the TV show, we got a much richer universe to enjoy than what we see here.  Heck, Wendy's roommate Lacey and neighbor Noser both hardly play an important part of the story in these comics.  They get much bigger parts in the show.

If I were coming to this book fresh, I would have enjoyed it more.  The stories are creative and the characters are likeable.  Plus there's that wonderful sense of humor I liked from the show.  The Middleman's gosh darn optimism is funny, as is Wendy's reaction to it.  And we can't leave out the captions in the second story.  Instead of playing it straight, every time they go to give us the time, they use a different, random time zone.  The result may make it hard to follow a timeline, but it doesn't matter in the slightest.

The art is this comic book is quite good as well.  I will admit that a couple of times in the action scenes I had to really study a drawing to understand what was happening.  But that was the rare exception.  The artwork is black and white.

Also included at the end are the covers of the various issues that each of the stories originally appeared under.

Okay, so I went into this book with unfair expectations.  There was no way they could capture everything from the show here.  Still, I am glad I picked up The Middleman: The Collected Series Indispensability.

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