Sunday, 29 June 2014

The Annotated Mantooth! Review (Matt Fraction, Andy Kuhn)

Everyone’s acting just a little too cool… 

… at least the guys intro-ing this book are. Warren Ellis repeatedly reminds us that he’s in a pub and he’s drunk and fuck you, he’s in a pub while he’s writing this, and did you know he’s drunk and in a pub? Joe Casey’s intro starts with “You have no idea what kinds of drugs I had to ingest to get this introduction down on paper…” Ooo, yeah you guys are real outlaws, you “rock star” comics writers! I get it, you really wish you were the comics version of Hunter S. Thompson except you’re not pulling it off! Greg Rucka also wrote (a needless) third intro but I’ll be damned if I ever read another word by that hack so who knows what he said. 

So why does one of Matt Fraction’s least known comics have three introductions? One word: padding. Take away the extras - the three introductions, the afterword from the publisher, the covers, the short story, and the annotated scripts - and you’re left with 40 pages of comics. In other words, the reason you’re buying this book - for the comic - isn’t even the length of a double-size issue. 

The format of the book is: left hand page is divided into two columns, comic script and annotations; right hand page is comic said script is about. I get that this is also the hilarious joke - this is a comic not even attempting to be intellectual in the least and we’re getting all kinds of stuff you’d find in an academic book. Har har, we’re annotating a story about a gorilla in drag punching Hitler! Yeah… what a riot. And they do this the entire book. Oh, my sides...

Even though this is supposed to be the joke, I didn’t bother reading the scripts or the annotations - all that text crap isn’t why I read comics in the first place. I usually have a novel going on so if I want to read prose/text, I’ll go read that. When I pick up a comic book? It’s because I want to read comics. Those scripts that get printed on the back of anniversary editions like Grant Morrison’s Arkham Asylum? I don’t read those either - why read the same story twice? Same reason I didn’t read the scripts here. But I get it, it’s a funnee joke...

Mantooth is James Bond as a gorilla, which actually works out as a small collection of jokes thrown in amidst overblown action. Some jokes are kinda funny like the “hard fucking category” listed among the Nobel Prizes, or the name of the killer robot: “World’s Greatest Grandpa”; the zombie watercar visual cracked me up, and the dialogue is as screwy as you’d expect from Fraction including “hoppin’ he-cunts” and Mantooth’s battle cry, “SHIT THE BED!”.

But are they cohesive as a story? Not really. They’re a sequence of knowingly kerazy scenes that add up to a very shallow and forgettable read. Mantooth fights Bond villain, says some creative swears, wins, the end. Repeat three times. Fraction also satirises Oprah, but Bond and Oprah are pretty easy targets and not exactly difficult to mock - Oprah’s manipulative and superficial? Duh. Bond’s silly? Double duh. Your point…? 

There’s an idea that to become a great writer, you have to get X number of words out of your system before you actually write something worth reading; I’d class Mantooth as one of those comics Fraction had to write in order to create the great comics he’s producing today (Hawkeye, Fantastic Four, FF, Sex Criminals). 

Simply put, there’s a reason why Mantooth is one of Fraction’s least known comics: it’s gorilla crap.

The Annotated Mantooth!

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