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Welcome back! I still don't have pictures in my reviews, but here's more text! Woohoo!|
This week, I review Sluggy Freelance, by Pete Abrams.
It's a little intimidating for a schmoe like me to take on one of the big guns. Sluggy Freelance is one of the best-known comics on the web; it is probably responsible for a whole lot of the toons out there. More people are likely to recognize the names Torg, Riff, Zoe, Kiki, and Bun-Bun than Boardy, Gav, Schlock, BoxJam, and Butch combined. (Bear in mind I'm using no actual statistics in the generation of this hypothesis.)
So much lore is built up around Sluggy Freelance, it's hard to know where to start. I could refer to the inexplicable title: there are no slugs in Sluggy, and "Freelance" only seems to refer to the main characters' tendency to work for themselves, or at least outside the corporate world. (Note: if the words "Sluggy Freelance" remind you of "Schlock Mercenary," take it up with Howard Tayler. I've never had the guts to ask him about that.) I could try to explain the characters, who include a lovable flannel-wearing putz, a tinkering trenchcoat-wearing dude, a hard-to-define sex object / conscience, a psychotic switchblade- wielding mini-lop, a sugar-buzzed ferret, and many more. (Yes, you Sluggites, I know I'm leaving out tons of characters. There are too many to list.
What I'd really like to describe, though, is what I describe as pop thrashing. Cartoonist Abrams likes to put his characters into situations that are reminiscent of pop culture. The Matrix, Tomb Raider, Star Wars, bad horror movies, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and many other fun concepts are juxtaposed with the wacky characters that maintain the Sluggy universe. This can be a very good thing, or a very bad thing.
At times, Abrams completely abandons humor in order to tell a story -- be it mystical, adventurous, or merely inexplicable. On many occasions, if one is unfamiliar with the pop culture reference, an entire month or two of Sluggy comics can feel very tedious. For example, I found the Buffy the Vampire Slayer plotline to be remarkably boring and drawn-out, but some Buffy fans felt it was Abrams' best work. (For the record: I'm not anti-Buffy. I like "Angel". But I don't know enough to have enjoyed the Sluggy-Buffy stuff. Additionally, try saying "Sluggy-Buffy stuff" repeatedly. It's fun.) The recurring storylines involving Santa Claus, his elves, and the Easter bunny (bunnies, really) aren't my style either. In fact, the current storyline is driving me crazy -- the dialogue is stilted and unusual, which is exactly what Abrams is going for, but it just doesn't compute in my head. Again, though, some people will probably say this is his best stuff.
The odd thing is, that's what I like about Sluggy Freelance. It covers so many bases that at one time or another, someone somewhere is laughing his fool head off. It will probably take several days to get through the Sluggy archives, but if you find yourself with time to kill, start reading from the beginning. The Dimension of Pain plots are my personal favorite, but the first few weeks of Sluggy really set the tone for sheer wackiness. Enjoy.
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