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The old hat routine: Douglas on a couple of 3/25 comics

Douglas Wolk

THE MUPPET SHOW COMIC BOOK #1: I had some conflicting expectations for this one. I would not have expected a comic book based on a TV variety show inspired by stage vaudeville (and notable for excellent puppetry and famous guest stars) to be up to much good. On the other hand, Roger Langridge, who’s writing and drawing it, has never to my knowledge made a comic book that’s less than worthwhile–I even kind of liked GROSS POINT.

It turns out to be VERY GOOD, I’m happy to say, because it reads less like a solid cartoonist servicing somebody else’s trademark than like somebody had the bright idea to let Langridge have some fun with the Muppet characters. It’s a Roger Langridge comic through-and-through, even within the strictly formulaic confines of the Muppet Show format–a friend pointed out that almost all the Muppets are only seen from the waist up, puppet-style, although Robin the Frog’s eyebrows levitate a couple of inches into the air, comics-style. A few sequences (especially the ones involving rhymes) are straight out of Fred the Clown territory. Which is to say dry, bubbly whimsy: there’s something at least kind of amusing in nearly every panel.

It’s pretty impressive as a juggling act, actually: there’s more of a narrative through-line here than there usually was on the TV show, but Langridge manages to cram in a Muppet News Flash, “Pigs In Space,” a climactic musical number, a Statler-and-Waldorf routine, and even some guest stars: an aged pair of “Zimmer Twins” (who seem to owe a little to Dave Sim’s Mick ‘n’ Keef). He also nails the Muppet characters’ speech patterns so well you can hear their voices–particularly in a Swedish Chef sequence that’s arguably even funnier for having its dialogue written rather than spoken:

Schtaij pujt!

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #31: This might be a first: in-story spoilers for a comic that hasn’t even been solicited yet. This issue was sold as dealing with “the fallout from FINAL CRISIS,” which it does, sort of. But it also follows up on some threads from JUSTICE LEAGUE: A CRY FOR JUSTICE. What’s that, you ask? Well, it’s the James Robinson-written Justice League series that was announced a year ago, and has now become a miniseries, “coming this July,” according to a footnote. Whoops: now we know some of what happens in it.

We also now know what happened in the scenes of FINAL CRISIS where story logic (and visual logic) dictated that Hawkman and Hawkgirl died: they didn’t, they just got roughed up a little. Apparently, this was a decision made after those scenes went to press. Dwayne McDuffie posted last month that “I wrote a scene set at their gravesite that I recently had to quickly rewrite into something not very good.” He’s right; it’s not.

As for the rest of the issue, the premise is that the Justice League is failing to accomplish its objectives, which are… Right. So Hal has started another group, to do things more proactively, which is a problem, because the League can’t have a situation like, say, Batman with the Outsiders, and… Anyway. Wally, the world’s greatest multitasker… Never mind. So they have to disband, because… wait, that was the plot of the end of the previous JLA series… Oh the hell with it. This is not even a story: it’s a set of mandated beats to which these characters can’t even be tacked without stretching them until they rip. AWFUL.

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