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WASTELAND VOL.1: CITIES IN DUST
Written by Antony Johnston and Drawn by Christopher Mitten

One hundred years ago, the world was changed forever in an event known as “The Big Wet.” Now, the survivors live in sandy squalor, the remaining “cities” left as walled-in fiefdoms run by madmen, and the dusty open lands populated by mutants, slave traders, and worse. But there is some sliver of hope; the legendary land of A-Ree-Yass-I. And its secrets might just be able to be cracked by a drifter named Michael who possesses some strange powers. Now leading the remnants of a settlement’s population towards the city of Newbegin, he has to find a way to balance his own desires against the responsibilities he has chosen to take on for the group he’s assisting. Unfortunately, those two things don’t match up very well. And when they get to Newbegin, they all might find that was a very bad idea, as its run by a madman with religious delusions of grandeur.

I’m a sucker for a good post-apocalyptic tale, and WASTELAND is a pretty decent one. The set-up for the world is a good one, the mystery behind “The Big Wet” is interesting, and the ultimate destination of A-Ree-Yass-I offers intrigue as the series progresses. However, there are some blips that the series needs to overcome at this point; the main problem is that none of the characters really jumps out as fully drawn and compelling yet. Michael is a cipher so far, underdeveloped for where you might expect through six issues, and that leaves the machinations going on within Newbegin as the more interesting plot thread. There need to be a balance, I think, to make the series truly work in all ways, and it isn’t quite there yet.

Still, there’s plenty here top entertain the reader. Johnston’s scripting is spare and tight, and Mitten really delivers some lovely and intense art on the page. Understand: while I’m saying that WASTELAND could be better, that isn’t a condemnation; too many books these days seem to start out on their best foot and then decline quickly. WASTELAND gets a little better with each chapter. I’ll take a book that grows into itself and develops and fulfills its potential over time versus a drastic burnout any day. This one is a book to keep watching.

Marc Mason

MAINTENANCE #2
Written by Jim Massey and Drawn by Robbi Rodriguez

In my review of MAINTENANCE #1, I expressed frustration that the book wasn’t as funny as it should have been, as it suffered from “set-up-it is.” However, I felt like the book could see drastic improvements in later issues with the initial proceedings completed. Reading issue two, that’s exactly what happened.

Doug and Manny, janitors at an evil think tank, get to work and find themselves assigned to cleaning the lab of a scientist working on a time machine. Thanks to an accident, the boys are thrown backwards into caveman times, where they discover that the scientist has already been making the trip and screwing around with the past natives. In fact, he’s been supplying the cavemen with items like jetpacks and laser guns. But while you’d think this would make the hairy men happy, they’d prefer things like matches and refrigeration. Hilarity ensues.

Everything about this issue is an improvement over the first. The jokes are smarter; the art looks more comfortable; and the pacing is spot on. You also figure out the first running “in-joke” that the series seems to be playing with; the man-shark in issue one was a riff on Jabberjaws, and the head caveman here bears no small resemblance to Captain Caveman. Massey and Rodriguez obviously loved Hanna-Barbera’s output in the early 80s.

If MAINTENANCE can continue this upward trend in wit and quality it will become a top-of-the-stack read before too long. Fun stuff.

Marc Mason

MAINTENANCE #1
Written by Jim Massey and Drawn by Robbi Rodriguez

Not every evil or mad scientist can afford to buy and equip his or her own workspace, and that’s where TerroMax comes in. It’s the greatest evil science think tank on the planet. But in a building full of weird science, lower level workers are still needed, and none more so than janitorial staff. That’s where Doug and Manny come in; it’s their responsibility to clean up fetid piles of shit, cart alien freeloaders around, and seal ruptured tanks holding the facility’s mansharks.

MAINTENANCE is a broad workplace comedy, the idea being that someone always has a worse job than you, and in that, the book succeeds in getting its message across. The boys manage to spend half the book covered in some of that fetid pile of shit, which definitely puts a crimp in the shy Manny’s desires to talk to the building’s receptionist, Mendy. Of course, the boys really come to life on the page when their dim IQs think it’s a good idea to take the manshark out for a drink after it complains of being forced to watch the TV edit of PORKY’S 2: THE NEXT DAY (commercials included).

The book doesn’t get off to the strongest possible start here in issue one. Part of that is due to a traditional first issue problem: the need to use exposition to set up the premise of the book. In this case, the expository feeling takes away from the organic nature of the humor behind the book. Mind you, it looks terrific, and there are some fun sight gags, but it reads a bit on the slow side. It isn’t until the boys take the manshark out to the bar that the book cuts loose and shows you a bit more of what you’d expect from a project of this nature. If the rest of the series can maintain the tone and lunatic flavor of the final few pages, this book will be a winner.

Marc Mason


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