Written by Joe Casey. Illustrated by Axel #13.
Pop-bizarre writer Joe Casey quickly became one of my favorites with off-beat titles like Intimates and Godland, so when I saw he was scripting an original manga-style graphic novel, I just had to pick it up.
I wish to whatever omnipotent universe-creating being which may or may not exist that I hadn't.
Everyone gathers at the star ports of megacity Okinapolis to honor the arrival of Tran Lo Zip and Xia Xu Bang, two members of the famous warrior clan Krash Bastards. Why are they famous? Why are they here? None of it is really explained. They just pop out and smile for the cameras.
The art is terrible. These two leads are the typical juvenile image of a muscled up man and a tiny-waist, huge tits woman that one would typically find doodled in the margins of a teenage boy's notebook. Their costumes are just as ridiculous, veering from skin-tight to unnecessary layers of "cool" armor and padding. Seriously, isn't this a look that died out with Liefeld?
To demonstrate the abilities of these two heroes, a guy dressed as a bull (?) attacks them for no real reason and is promptly sliced to bits by their shredders, a "cool" name for what look like typical samurai swords.
I'm astonished that Casey's writing is as painful as the art. The dialogue is not only as cheesily artificial as the worst of the Golden Age comics, but it's littered with streams of unexplained, at times indecipherable, slang. Here's an example:
XIA: Fix on my crown, Tran.
TRAN: Looks fresh. Now, don't be neurotic. You don't lick a heel... you don't bend a knee. You're badass. Wear your wit on your face. Media blitz at the top of the clock...
XIA: I'm poised.
Don't lick a heel? So much of the poorly told story grinds to a further halt because I'm trying to understand what the hell a character just said.
The bull-dude dispatched with, Tran and Xia are sent to deal with a giant, rampaging gecko. They win, of course. What's surprising is that the gecko is so well drawn that I question if it's truly from the same artist.
Elsewhere, the wise old Sun Tsai visits his rambunctious young student Ren Kid Zip - both also Krash Bastards - and learns of an outbreak of deviant behavior on the campus from a gang called The Death Lords of Kwan. Once again, the dialogue is so all over the place that I only picked up on this while rereading that section for the review. Here's another taste of Casey's words:
REN: Your presence blasts me, Sun. Well met, old timer.
SUN: You are not fulfilled here? Your attendance was of your own choosing...
REN: School's a dig, but trouble simmers just beneath the surface here.
SUN: Speak on, youngster.
Eager to test the boy's abilities, Sun sticks around that night so both can investigate the situation further. The Death Lords inevitably make their appearance and the fight begins. Now, isn't it story-telling 101 to establish the villain's menace by showing them in the act of something menacing? Here they just run under some trees and get their asses kicked by a kid and an old man. Yeah, talk about a serious threat.
And once again, the art becomes an issue as Sun and Ren, two characters whose ages should make them pretty damned distinctive, look so similar in their "spying" clothes that it gets hard to tell them apart in the middle of the battle. What the hell?
The Death Lords downed, Sun uses his telepathic powers to locate their hidden lair. That's right, the Krash Bastards all have telepathic powers. How do we know? Because right in the middle of a telepathic conversation, there's a lovely little caption that comes out of nowhere to say "The Krash Bastards can communicate telepathically." Thanks for that last-minute reminder. Shame you couldn't fit it somewhere in the dialogue like normal exposition.
Back to Okinopolos... Remember that dead giant gecko? Well, the city officials figure the best way to make use of it is to quickly strip the meat for nutrition centers. That right there is the sole example of Casey's usual cleverness. Where'd the rest go?
Suddenly landing near the spot in his giant starship is Kau Death. He's menacing because he's big, shouts a lot, and wears a hideously designed suit of samurai armor. Oh, and he carries an average-looking, though mysteriously fabled, blade called Black Fang. Kau Death, who worships giant monsters and considers them magical, is disgusted that such an awesome being would now be harvested for meaningless food. So he kills some people, chases off the rest, and orders his forces to gather the remains so the gecko's power can be properly preserved in his taxidermy collection.
We return to Sun and Ren as they sneak into the Death Lords' lair and are quickly captured.
Their telepathic distress signal is received by Xi Pop Li, the "Most mysterious Krash Bastard of them all." Why is she mysterious? Well, she doesn't talk. In fact, when she's not out kicking ass with the team, Xi just sits in her room in a constant state of meditation. I'm sure the reason was explained but I refuse to decipher any more dialogue because that would require me to read it again.
Xi, Xia, and Tran also sneak into the Death Lords' lair, though at least they thought to use disguises (Sun and Ren just moronically walk in as they are). Waiting for the lead Death Lord to deliver some exposition through a grand speech (They're led by Kau Death! What a shock!) the three heroes free their two friends and the group proceeds to take out the villains in a huge, violent, terribly drawn battle.
After the dust settles, something infuriating happens. Tran, for no real reason, suddenly becomes stoic and tells his friends to head back to the ship while he takes the battle to Kau Death on his own. What? Why! Attack en masse, you idiot! Is there a single, legitimate reason why splitting up is a good idea? Well, Sun offers one: "[Tran's] desire for proof of self must take precedence here. Not all wars are fought with armies."
Are. You. Fucking. Kidding. Me.
You have a massive samurai dictator with a huge army and an average - yet fabled! - blade and, instead of rallying your forces to take him down in one fell stroke for the betterment of the galaxy, you're going to let this lone warrior take all that responsibility in his hands just so he can prove something to himself?
Of all the stupid twists this already terrible comic can pull, that one definitely takes the cake. Why Joe Casey? Why? I have to believe you were in some sort of a drug haze while scripting this book. Who knows, maybe it was supposed to be funny. Maybe this entire trash heap of a wet diaper was meant to be satirical in some way. Of course, that explanation falls in the toilet when you consider one little thing: IT'S NOT FUNNY. The art is rushed and amateurish. The story is just a few scenes slapped together without any notice given to the fact they don't fit. Maybe there were some missed jokes in the dialogue, but I'd need a few notebooks and a week just to crack the code of Casey's slang and, frankly, I'm unwilling to waste any more of my time sifting through shit.
Let's finish this.
Tran meets Kau Death in the final battle. And loses. That's right, kids. Tran, the lone warrior who set out to prove something to himself completely fails. Not only is he defeated, but Kau Death refuses to finish his victim with that average - yet fabled! - blade of his and instead beats into Tran a lesson that giant animals are to be respected, not slain. (sigh)
Tran later awakens (adorned in typical post-fight bandages) to find himself in the mystic green valley of the Bang Dynasty, his friends at his side. Does he do as he should and start screaming at them "Where were you?! How could you have let me go there alone?! Proof of self be damned! He just whupped my ass and you were nowhere!"
Nope. They share smiles and he vows to keep fighting.
In a final tag, Kau Death reveals that he knows a secret about the Krash Bastards. What is it? I could honestly care less as I will absolutely not pick up another volume of this childish waste of a scrotal wound excretion.
Nobody, absolutely nobody should buy this book. Joe Casey completists especially need to stay miles away. In most similar cases, a work like this would still be an interesting little curiosity in the career of a favorite writer, but this book is a black hole that will suck away all respect you have for the man.
That said, I'll still be reading Godland.