Sunday, August 01, 2004

"It's a bank, Rob!" 

I tend to reread my favorite titles and series quite a bit. I've read Welcome Back, Frank a ridiculous amount of times; read Dark Knight Returns even more. I've read the whole Preacher run a few times through, and numerous more times reading bits and pieces here and there. Same with Transmetropolitan and 100 Bullets and Hitman and I've found myself rereading the first Human Target trade by Milligan and Pulido.

A lot of praise has been heaped on the Astronauts in Trouble collection in the past by folks far smarter than I am. And they're right: it's a fun, fast-paced, imaginative and ultimately a damn good time. Live From the Moon kicks it off and sets the pace, and Space: 1959, the author's personal favorite, throws in flavorings of Nick Fury and Indiana Jones.

But the one I always come back to is One Shot, One Beer.

Set ten years after the events of LFTM, OSOB takes perhaps the most basic format in the world to tell its many and varied stories-within-a-story: a bunch of people sitting around a bar swapping tales. Except in this case, the bar's on the moon.

What's effective about this particular story is that ties together all the themes and threads from the previous works: a zen story on prosperity, a James Bond-like adventure with what is clearly the author's favorite character, the Nick Fury stand-in, a slightly biased recap of the events of LFTM, and a little bit of the old Astronauts in Trouble, flavored by toilet water and scuttlebots with a bad sense of timing.

Now, this sort of thing is a hell of a lot trickier to pull off than it sounds. Instant reasoning must be given for us to give two shits about the random assemblage of characters and the stories they have to tell. Larry Young and Charlie Adlard are up to the task. Young has an annoyingly keen ear for the natural ebb and flow of conversation, a versatility in subject matter and an overall sense of fun to what he brings to the table; Adlard, well, I don't have to tell you about Adlard. He's a star, plain and simple, and he's the guy who'll be collected in hardcovers twenty years from now.

I'm not sure what it is about OSOB that does it for me. It's more an epilogue than a sequel, a summation and sendoff of the previous AiT installments and a hell of a way to cap the series. But it's goddamned hysterical, and pulls off that impossible trick of making everyday people more fascinating than your average cape-wearer. For that I doff my hat.

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