Sunday, June 08, 2008

The Middleman, Vol. 2: The Second Volume Inevitability

I took the credits out of the blog-post title to keep it short; this was written by Javier Grillo-Marxuach and illustrated by Les McClaine.

This is the second of three series so far about the Middleman, who is yet another super-secret agent fighting mysterious evil in the modern world. It's told with a mostly light touch -- the Middleman's slogan is "Fighting Evil So You Don't Have To" -- and in general doesn't attempt to be more than it is. I read the first book about a year ago, and buried my response to it in this post. Oh -- and it's being turned into a TV series, which is probably its natural home to begin with.

In this volume, the Middleman's new sidekick Wendy - who looks precisely like the typical "hot librarian" -- is demanding to take more responsibility, but has to pick up the Middleman's Sensei Ping at the airport. And then a horde of Mexican wrestlers attack. Things go on from there in about the ways you'd expect a light-but-serious modern-day adventure story to go -- Wendy has to save the day, but bumbles more than a bit while doing it -- with an element of pathos (supplied by Wendy's civilian ex-boyfriend) that's pure schmaltz and doesn't really fit. (The great unwashed of TV will probably love it, though.)

And then there are three stories by other artists, with Middlemen of other eras -- all with a sidekick awfully like Wendy -- under the title "Legends of the Middleman." It seems awfully early in the series to resort to that kind of shtick, but everything moves more quickly these days, including shark-jumping.

The Middleman is breezy and fun, with a sense of humor that's not intrusive and a very clean mainstream-comics art style optimized for back-and-white reproduction. It's not as funny or wonderful as the back-cover quotes would have you believe, but it's much better than a poke in the eye with a blunt stick.

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