Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Maintenance #7

Today saw the release of Maintenance #7 from Oni Pres. I reviewed issue #1 back here, and I figure it's time to bring the book back into the spotlight to see how the creative team is holding up.

To quickly catch you up to speed, Maintenance is about Doug and Manny, two janitors for TerroMax, Inc. -- the world's largest organization dedicated to helping mad scientists and evil geniuses conduct their research. I'm sure you can see the great potential for comedy in that much alone, and Jim Massey and Robbi Rodriguez have continued to roll out plenty of new and funny material in every issue so far.

One of the things I find particularly enjoyable about the series is that Doug and Manny are just two regular guys. They're just trodding through life, like the rest of us, working as janitors to pay the bills. They're not particularly smart, but they're not particularly dumb either. They're about as average and normal as you can get, really. And they're both straight men. The comedy throughout the book is what happens around them as they mop up coffee spills and talk about Manny's love life.

Humor is largely about timing, and Massey and Rodriguez seem to have that down very well here. For example, we get just enough of seeing a self-confident Manny striding down to ask out receptionist Mendy that running into her replacement of a six-armed alien file clerk who's distressed by a ringing phone is wholly unexpected. Or, just as we begin to lose sight of the party that Doug and Manny are cleaning up after, we see one the scientists flying in the background, evidently beaten to a smoldering pulp by a rival scientist he was mocking two pages earlier. Or, the two page sequence of learning what happened to Mendy by watching an A.I. video recorder disguised as a fly being interrupted as the unit was distracted by seeing its reflection in a nearby mirror.

One of the things I found particularly striking about this issue was additional character development. We see not only Manny gaining self-confidence and self-respect, but their hard-as-nails boss begins to show a subtler, softer side by tacitly suggesting she's willing to cover their absence while they mount a rescue operation for the kidnapped Mendy. In my review of the first issue, I made a quick comparison to the TV show Red Dwarf and I think that's becoming more valid as both stories show continued character development while maintaining much of the comedy that was on display initially. (Of course, Maintenance carries a bit of an edge these days as we haven't gotten any new RD in nearly ten years!)

One last thing, I'd like to point out. While I initially dismissed the appearances of the alien K'Arl and the mutated man-shark Cobra McPunchy as one-offs, both characters return towards the end of this issue. And I, for one, am eager to see Cobra on an adventure with the boys.

Good stuff, I tell you. It's little wonder that Warner Brothers has optioned Maintenance as a feature film.

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