Maintenance #6 (Oni Press)
By Jim Massey & Robbi Rodriguez
Doug and Manny, the two supervillain base janitors, return this month in “Chills.” With the heating system in the base on the fritz, everyone is freezing their butts off. Despite this, Dr. Kung decides to summon all the mad scientists on the base for an anniversary party celebrating the formation of the Joint Committee to Assess Employee Morale. Oh — and there’s a sort of coffee-monster attacking everyone as well. What makes this comic work is the way Massey so seamlessly blends the simple goofiness of the supervillain concept with the simple goofiness of an office comedy, and this issue is no exception. Rodriguez‘s artwork is also a major selling point — the comedy wouldn’t work as well if not for the strong, funny character designs and storytelling. This book is always highly recommended.
Quick Rating: Very Good
Christmas with Dante and Randall – and a surprise guest in Leonardo.
Writer: Kevin Smith
Pencils: Phil Hester
Inks: Ande Parks
Letters: Sean Konot
Cover Art: Art Adams
Publisher: Oni Press
One of Kevin Smith’s earlier entries into the world of comics books, the Clerks Holiday Special is one of those books that’s a knockout for fans of the property, but probably doesn’t hold much interest for those who aren’t into the View Askewniverse. Set a couple of years after the first Clerks movie, Dante and Randall are settling in for another Christmas slagging through life at RST Video and the Quick Stop. Dante finds himself missing Caitlin Bree, who has been in a mental institution since the “Bathroom Incident” in the movie, but his spirits are slightly lifted by the knowledge that he’s about to get the better of Randall in a bet 15 years in the making. Randall, meanwhile, is stuck trying to fill a special order from a mysterious old man who’s looking for specific videos to placate his workers in the door in-between the Quick Stop and RST.
The story is actually kind of clichéd as far as Christmas stories go – there’s a mysterious stranger who turns out to be exactly who you would assume he is, one of the characters gets drawn into his world, he winds up wondering if his adventure was real or a dream, and in the end you get just a taste that maybe the Christmas spirit is real after all. What elevates this special beyond just being another stereotypical Christmas comic is Smith’s inimitable writing style. In the case of this story, it’s the inappropriate jokes, Randall’s blasé attitude, pop culture references and in-jokes to Smith’s own then-burgeoning comic book career (there’s a great gag early in the book poking fun at his own run on Marvel’s Daredevil), the book is quite simply funny.
Smith’s writing is funny and sharp, and Phil Hester’s artwork is the perfect compliment to it. He’s got a wonderful style that works with the Askewniverse characters perfectly. So many comic books that incorporate likenesses of real actors in the artwork fall flat. Hester is one of the few artists out there that does it right – create a cartoon-style caricature of the actor instead of trying to mimic him perfectly, because Bullwinkle, that trick never works.
Is it the greatest Christmas story ever told? Oh, Heavens no. But it’s a fun story, especially for fans of Kevin Smith.
(This special has been reprinted three times – in the original Clerks hardcover, collecting the stories published by Oni Press, in the trade paperback reprint from Image comics, and most recently in the Tales From the Clerks omnibus from Graphitti Designs, which includes every Askewniverse comic book to date.)