The best thing about “Ambush Bug” comics has always been that they existed completely in the moment of their release. Their comedy was at times timeless, but mostly they were scathing looks at the politics and the storylines of the DC Universe at the time of their publication. “Year None” is no exception, each issue tackling another of DC’s recent “events”, this issue focusing on “Countdown To Final Crisis” (if I’m reading it right.)
Having skirted around the issue in previous installments, this time the target is painted fully on the back of Dan DiDio, pulling no punches and focusing completely on his management approach and its effect on the DCU over the past few years. We see him as Darkseid, Lex Luthor, even Cheeks; emerging as the true arch villain of the series (another typical Ambush Bug gag, Editor As Antagonist).
Ambush Bug leaps from Alternate Universe to Alternate Universe, leading to all sorts of great bits, including an inspired “Ozzie & Harriet” style comic strip featuring a family of black censorship bars. Giffen and Fleming have never aspired to more than a loosely hung together series of jokes, so there’s not much plot to follow between issues. The story is just an excuse to weave through the last five or so years of DC trivia.
Giffen has retained his trademark cartooning style, even if it sometimes lacks the detail it used to. Kevin Maguire is a fine artist, of course, but even the best of these guest covers can’t make up for a classic Giffen pastiche, the kind that made the old series so charming.
If I can just get technical for a moment, one of the lost pleasures of the old “Ambush Bug” comics lost in the wave of digital comics post-production is the shopworn feel that maintained the consistent feel of the book over its many shifts in genre, sometimes several times in one page. The myriad logos and visual asides almost feel hamstrung, limited by whatever fonts might be available. In the “Ambush Bug” comics of old, Amber Butane would get his own logo, perfectly replicating the Green Lantern one. There’s just something lost here when you take away that limitless palette that Giffen and Fleming used to use to such great effect.
It’s still, as ever, a blast to read, but some of the magic has been lost in the transition to contemporary comics. But I suppose, in true “Ambush Bug” style, that this says more about the state of things in the industry today than the success or failure of the comic itself.