Oni's Maintenance #1

By | Monday, March 05, 2007 Leave a Comment
As I've noted oh-so-many times before, I'm always on the hunt for books that are somewhat outside of the mainstream these days. I've picked some books up simply on the strength of the creators, and I've picked up some books because of the "high concept". The downside of picking up books on the premise of an unknown concept is that the execution can be tricky, regardless of how great a concept it is. Pirates vs. Ninjas for example is a fabulous concept, but could easily have gone down the tubes quickly. (It hasn't, BTW.)

In that regard, I've been pretty lucky. Most of the "cool" concept books I've bought lately have been very good and that's why I try to review them here. It's stuff out of the mainstream superhero set, but good quality material that a lot of "normal" comic fans might enjoy if they knew about them. Today's review is no exception; I'm talking about Maintenance from Oni Press.

The basic premise is that Doug and Manny are the two janitors for TerroMax, Inc. -- the world's largest organization dedicated to helping mad scientists and evil geniuses conduct their research. We follow the day-to-day lives of Doug and Manny as they clean up exploded marauding gigamorphs and pry carnivorous zombie kittens from vending machines.

For anyone who doesn't get it: yes, it's a comedy.

Actually, what makes the book work so well -- and it does work quite well -- is that we really don't see Doug and Manny doing the grunt labor. That's left "in the gutters" as it were; Jim Massey (the writer) and Robbi Rodruiguez (the artist) leave those concept jokes in the set up, by and large. We "get it" as soon as Doug and Manny's boss tells them to get a couple of mops to clean up the gigamorph, so we cut to them back in the break room covered in goo and don't bore readers with the actual clean-up work. In some respects, it's like Red Dwarf in that we follow the lives of people who aren't defined by their jobs -- it's their lives outside of their jobs that interest us.

There's also plenty of gag material to work with. Doug and Manny's boss is a former scientist who's been demoted to the sanitation manager -- a fact that she makes no qualms about being angry about -- so there's some options for extended antagonistic relationships. But, likewise, the actual cast of scientists is a perpetually rotating one, so Doug and Manny can have run-ins with evil geneticists, evil physicists, evil biochemists... This allows a lot of room to keep things interesting and fresh.

Issue #1 came out back in December and #2 came out a couple weeks ago. I haven't heard/seen a lot of press on this, so any shop that carries Oni books probably has a good chance of still having these on hand.

Personally, I'm getting tired of tired of the dread seriousness which has been pervading most of Marvel's and many of DC's books lately. I'm all for making comics that are dark social commentaries, but I think it's a bit much to push that throughout the majority of your line. I want some comics that are fun, and Maintenance fits that bill very well. I mean, where else are you going to find a man-shark named Cobra McPunchy having an existential dilemma while discussing the finer points of Porky's 2?
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