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A review a day: Doris Danger Giant Monster Adventures

by  in Comic News Comment
A review a day: <I>Doris Danger Giant Monster Adventures</i>

Well, I’m back, after a really rough week (not for me, but the rest of the family got sick, so it was no fun!), and how about we finish out the year? As there are no comics this week, I can guarantee I’m not getting anything new!

So, without further ago, if you like giant monsters, this is the book for you!

Doris Danger Giant Monster Adventures is by Chris Wisnia (with pin-ups by several good artists sprinkled throughout), costs a mere $9.95, and is published by SLG. It wears its Kirby influences proudly on its sleeve, and that’s not a bad thing. Well, unless you don’t like Kirby’s monster comics. But you wouldn’t be that crazy, would you?

I’ll get this out of the way right now: I didn’t love this comic. I liked quite a bit of it, and the Kirby homage had nothing to do with why I didn’t love it. It’s somewhat difficult to articulate what it’s about and why I was disappointed with it, so I’ll just get it out of the way.

Wisnia gives us several stories of supposedly lost comics from the 1950s purporting to show the true adventures of Doris Danger, a reporter for Tabloia Magazine, and her attempts to uncover a grand conspiracy set up by the United States government to deny the existence of giant monsters. Yes, it’s ridiculously silly. It’s meant to be.

So we get a bunch of stories in which Doris and her boyfriend, Steve (who is, interestingly enough, African-American, something which is never commented upon even though this book takes place in the 1950s and a white woman dating a black man would have warranted something, one would think) try to reveal the existence of monsters while the government tries to stop her. Then there’s the MLA – Monster Liberation Army – who is also trying to reveal the monsters’ existence. And then there’s the guys with the fezzes. And the robots. It makes very little sense, as Wisnia simply crams all sorts of goofy stuff into each panel. We get double- and triple-crosses, imposters, shocking! revelations, and, of course, all kinds of giant monsters with silly names. One thing that pushes the book even further into surreal territory is that Wisnia claims that because these magazines were lost for years, we can’t get them all in order. Therefore, these “issues” don’t tell a chronological story, with each issue referring to “other issues” that aren’t contained in this book, and the comics referred to are often out of any coherent order. Tabloia Weekly Magazine #214, for instance, was published in 1956 (according to one footnote), while issue #232 was published in 1954.

Wisnia, obviously, doesn’t care about coherence, wanting just to poke fun at the practice of referring back to other comics that was once a staple of (especially) Marvel books. His gleeful abandonment of reason in the footnotes is one of the best parts of the book. Wisnia’s art is quite good, too, as he does a fine job channeling Kirby, giving us nicely odd monsters and a lot of bang for our buck in terms of sheer amount of panels, all of which are packed with content. Wisnia is having a lot of fun on this comic, and it makes reading it enjoyable.

So why don’t I love it? Well, it feels like Wisnia might be trying a bit too hard. I’m not going to rail against the cliché about the government being evil, because it’s all in good fun anyway, but Wisnia seems to think that all he has to do is take the wildest excesses of Silver Age comics, ramp them all up to eleven, and it will all work. It doesn’t, though. Sure, it’s humorous for a time, but after pages and pages of it, it becomes static, and while I still liked looking at Wisnia’s pictures and still read it with some enjoyment, I just felt like Wisnia was spinning his wheels. Now, that again might be the point, as many Silver Age comics, when read in quick succession, recycle plots even more than today’s comics do, but Wisnia doesn’t make any effort to change things up, so it becomes less satire and more slavish recreation. Wisnia has plenty of satirical elements in this comic, but they never seem to pay off fully. It’s frustrating.

This is the kind of comic I wish I liked more. It’s fun to read, and it looks very nice, especially if you’re a fan of Kirby’s work. It’s unfortunate that it’s much more of a trifle than anything, even if it’s only ten bucks. It’s an interesting comic to read, but it will leave very little impression on you.

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