Keith Giffen’s humor-oriented comics are a mixed bag. Sometimes they’re incredibly funny, like his and J.M. DeMatteis’s time working on “Justice League International” back in the day. Other times, you get books that don’t work, like “The Heckler.” Unfortunately, “Larfleeze” #1 is the essence of unfunny.
Picking up where the Larfleeze back-up feature in “Threshold” left him, the annoying personification of greed spends most of this issue telling Pulsar Stargrave his origin story, except of course at least half of it isn’t true. Add in a random fight scene thrown in at the end of the issue, and that’s the entirety of “Larfleeze” #1, which is part of the problem.
Giffen and DeMatteis seem to have put most of their eggs in one basket, and that’s the idea that Larfleeze’s origin story will be so funny that readers will be entertained even though nothing’s happening. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Jokes are weak and unimaginative, with moments like a newborn Larfleeze being dragged across the ground by his umbilical cord being the best punch line offered by the writers. Jokes feel like a combination of crass and simply unimaginative, a near-lethal combination for humor. The bigger problem, though, is that Giffen and DeMatteis undercut their own lack of humor throughout “Larfleeze” #1, thanks to the character of Stargrave. He spends almost all of the issue complaining about having to hear Larfleeze’s origin story again, and groaning about the details. When Stargrave pleads, “Not your life story again!” it’s hard to keep from feeling like the comic is prepping readers in advance that this is going to be awful. There’s no reason to doubt Stargrave — he’s presented as the half of the duo that has a brain — and by the end a reader will just be nodding along every time Stargrave moans about how awful this story is. Giffen and DeMatteis ultimately steer their readership down a path of hating the comic.
Scott Kolins’s art (working off of page breakdowns by Giffen) is fine, which makes it the high point of the comic. There are a couple of moments here and there that look nice, like the huge Orange Lantern at the end of the vault when first shown in Larfleeze’s flashback, and how the circular walls make the panel look massive even though it’s only on one third of a page. But two pages later, when Larfleeze gets his big splash page, all you can look at are Larfleeze’s teeny tiny feet that look so underdeveloped that they would make a mid-’90s Rob Liefeld drawing feel right at home. At least when the villain shows up at the end of the comic it’s a dramatic contrast, although I think that has more to do with colorist Mike Atiyeh’s choices than anything else. Normally, I’m used to Kolins’ art looking a little more robust.
“Larfleeze” #1 is the sort of comic that makes you wonder why anyone thought there was a need for this to be an ongoing series. I can see an irregular series of one-offs and guest-appearances, certainly. But with a debut as limp and unfunny as this, I can’t imagine this series maintaining a readership for long. Sometimes Giffen and DeMatteis knock it out of the park (and I still look forward to “Justice League 3000”), but this is not one of those comics.