I suspect “Ambush Bug: Year None,” like all Ambush Bug stories, is created in the mold of the classic Looney Tunes shorts. The gags come first, then a story is created around them. In Keith Giffen’s case, maybe the story never gets created at all. Because it’s all about the gags anyway, isn’t it?
But if you hinge the comic completely on the gags, then they’d better be funny. “Ambush Bug: Year None” #2 doesn’t have a whole lot of funny gags.
I still like the madness of this issue, and I’d rather read it than a dozen other by-the-numbers “oh, I am so sad and tragic because I am a superhero and my loved one is dead” comics. (I’m looking at you, Brad Meltzer comics.) It’s refreshing to read a comic that lets the creators run wild and break pretty much every storytelling rule in the book. Transitions: who needs ’em?!? Character arcs: seriously?!? Logic: pshaw!!!
“Ambush Bug: Year None” can be fun at times. The opening page starts off as a small slice of genius, with the Source Wall lounging around on a beach chair in Acapulco. The Source Wall — a wall, with writing on it — is our host, and his description of the Ambush Bug/Zatanna “incident,” is hilarious. But then the page ends with an onlooker saying, “Mom, that’s not what I meant by a ‘chiseled physique!'” Cue rimshot. He’ll be here all month, ladies and gentlemen!
That pretty much sums up “Ambush Bug: Year None” #2. It’s a mix of “inside DC” humor combined with “Three’s Company”-style groan-inducing comedy. If that’s what you’re into, you’ll love this issue. Me, I enjoy the “inside DC” jabs, but the corny jokes don’t even make me smile. There’s no accounting for taste.
Here are some other things that I didn’t find particularly funny: the goddess from the Deadman comics (Rama Kushna) shows up as a face in the sky, wearing the Groucho Marx nose-and-glasses — a zinger. The Mauve Lantern shows up, an effeminate hero called “Don Gaye Apparel,” and the newly Mauve Mr. Nebula is a fabulous interior decorator — because thirty-year-old gay stereotypes are comedy gold, apparently. And editor Jann Jones is drawn in a manga style, because she’s Asian — get it?!?
So I winced a bit every few pages, and I’m sure that’s the point. But I think Ambush Bug, as a character and as a concept, works best when he’s goofing on DC’s ridiculous continuity, or lack thereof. And some of those bits are quite amusing, like when Ambush Bug proudly adopts the mantle of Rick Starr, Space Ranger. Or when he confronts the maniacal Go-Go Chex. Or when he asks Ted Kord for an autograph at an inopportune time (hmm, he seems to be having some kind of argument with Maxwell Lord, I wonder what — oh my god, NOOOOOOO!!!). Luckily the “Comics Code Authority” sticker jumps into the panel to protect us from the gore, yelling “not in front of the children.”
That stuff, I like. Maybe you’ll find the gay jokes funnier. There’s something to offend everyone, really.
I do love Keith Giffen’s art, though, and I like the manic pace. This comic reads like it was created by a couple of guys who kept getting bored every few pages, and then gave up on trying to tie all the bits together, and it probably was.
But, for me, there’s just a bit too much emphasis on the corny jokes and the sit-com quality gags and not enough skewering of the DC Universe itself. It is a six-issue series, though, so perhaps Giffen is saving all of his good stuff for later. I’m sure he can do better than the Mauve Lanterns.