Posted by: Graeme McMillan on May 8, 2010
Maybe it’s just me, but there’s something kind of depressing about SHOWCASE PRESENTS AMBUSH BUG. I remember, when the original series (serieses?) were coming out, thinking that there was something hilarious and subversive about what Keith Giffen and Robert Loren Fleming were up to, even though I didn’t get half the jokes (Hey, I was ten years old or something like that; give me a break), but re-reading the stories now – and especially in one large chunk like this collection – I came away feeling as if I was watching the creators fall out of love with comics, or at least the comics industry; what starts as affectionate parody gradually becomes more and more bitter (and repetitive, as if Giffen and Fleming are getting less and less interested in actually trying to entertain) and, because of that, less enjoyable to read.
(If I had to pinpoint where it all started to go wrong? The Son Of Ambush Bug mini-series, where it was already feeling as if the joke had worn out its welcome, and Giffen and Fleming were getting more insular and straw-mannish with their targets; if the character had pretty much disappeared after the first series, or the Stocking Stuffer special, it might’ve been better for all involved. By the time the book’s last issue, the Nothing Special rolls around, there’s almost some kind of contempt – for the audience, for the comic industry, for themselves – sneaking in, some kind of “You think we can get away with this? Why not?”, disguised as irreverence.)
Maybe I’m projecting – It wouldn’t be the first time – but this is an interesting book for the wrong reasons; somewhere around the midway point, the stories stop being very entertaining, but I started to get fascinated watching the series, and the character, become smaller and more embittered, raging against the way his medium was going. The Showcase collection is interesting for all the wrong reasons; it’s interesting because of what was happening behind the scenes, all the things left unsaid and watching as the satirists lose their sense of fun and just get angry instead. Like I said, maybe I’m projecting, and maybe I just don’t get the joke. But, even though this is only an Okay book for me, I can’t help but feel like there’s more here than I initially expected going in.