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Comic review: The Annotated Mantooth

The Annotated Mantooth! by Matt Fraction and Andy Kuhn

I feel a little guilty when I find books I have been meaning to try at half price but also feel good because I’ve found a bargain. Yes, I am conflicted, but that didn’t stop me buying it.

I had been meaning to check this out because it is a great concept – Rex Mantooth: Kung Fu Gorilla. I mean, I don’t have the monkey/ape fetish that a lot of comic fans seem to have (I’m always amazed that Dave can do a weekly post with a different comic book cover with a monkey on it – see here for an example), but the idea just grabs you by the nads and bitch slaps you into paying attention to the story.

The collection of three stories are vignettes in the life of Rex; there is no explanation of why a talking gorilla is a kung fu spy who is sexually involved with his delectable yet ass-kicking (and human) partner, Honey, but we don’t really need it. Back story is passé; bring on the ultraviolence and the jokes.

In the first tale, Rex fights ninja robots. The second sees him fight lesbian commandos. The third finds him fighting zombie scientists. That is high fucking concept right there. What’s more, this if funny. Laugh-out-loud funny. That doesn’t happen nearly enough. Rex sounds like a drunk, American Warren Ellis, if such a bizarre chimeric abomination can exist. There are some wonderfully silly ideas thrown in for fun: playing charades with the villain who speaks bizarre Chinese (‘You are the bullshit fisherman.’); Rex writing a book called The Erotic Shatner; the lines, ‘You will hit this shit all night long.’ and ‘there’s nothing funny about zombies. Well, except how they keep twitching after you’ve cleaved their goddamn heads open. Now that’s pretty fucking funny.’ Matt Fraction is obviously deranged, in a good way, and is matched by the enjoyable art of Andy Kuhn. These aren’t the greatest comics in the world (Fraction admits that the lesbian commando story isn’t very strong) but they do bring a smile to the face, which has to be a good thing.

There are several forewords, including Ellis on fine vitriolic form, and an afterword from Larry Young to fill up page numbers. The original script is included for comparison purposes, which is an interesting academic exercise. The other DVD-like extra is the annotations, where Fraction comments on the story. I was looking forward to this the most but it came off like a weak director’s commentary, very sparse and with only the occasional anecdote of note. It doesn’t stop the enjoyment dead, but it detracts from the package. All told, I feel that the price I paid for it was worth it, but I might have felt a little cheated if I’d paid full price.

Rating: B+

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