One Punch Reviews #32: Manly Guys Doing Manly Things
I know what you’re saying. You’re saying, “El Santo, why don’t you ever review comics about real manly men?” OK, so you’re really not saying that… ‘cuz deep down inside, you’re all girly men! *Grunt* Time to eat your vitamins and say your prayers, kids, because today we’re getting pumped up with Kelly Turnbull’s Manly Guys Doing Manly Things, where the punchline is machismo.
Manly Guys is set in a world where our main dude is named Commander Badass, who runs a firm that helps video game badasses reintegrate into society. It’s a place where America won the Vietnam War, but the US Government sent our hero back in time to retcon things so we could have Rambo movies. In Manly Guys, Marlon Brando of the On the Waterfront era is not just a sex symbol, he is a god. Also, it’s where Canadians are sneaky border-crawlers with lazy Canadianspeak, but to be perfectly honest that’s nothing we didn’t already know. (Send your irate yet polite reader complaints to firstname.lastname@example.org, eh.) My God, such manliness! There’s so much testosterone in Manly Guys Doing Manly Things that you can practically smell the sweaty gym towels.
Kelly Turnbull also works on Comedy Central’s Ugly Americans, and she brings the same dry sense of humor where the surreal (in this case, manly guys of video games) are rendered banal when viewed in the light of the everyday grind. Big Daddy, perhaps due to his name, has to work at the daycare. Pokemon training is seen as an ultimately unfulfilling and violent hobby. Manly Guys feels more grown up than it’s video game comic brethren, as if it were more aimed toward hipsters who still moan the end of Arrested Development than the stereotypical Red Bull chugging, foul mouthed gamer.
While I do appreciate the novel spin on the video game webcomic, the humor is frankly quite hit-and-miss. I chucked when God of War’s Kratos becomes prom queen, but the the joke dragged for too long when it turned into a Carrie parody. And, well, I’m starting to sympathize with people who read webcomics and don’t get the video game references. Today, dear readers, I am one of you. Still, though, the artwork is reason enough to tune in. Can you really live your life not knowing how totally badass Gannon looks in a three-piece suit? Sure … if you can call that living.
Manly Men is strongest when it centers around Commander Badass, who turns out to be more three-dimensional than any character in what’s basically a video game comic has any right to be. The guy exhibits zen coolness despite problems in his personal life (turns out he’s divorced and has a couple of kids) and the craziness going on around him. Despite Kelly’s insistance that he sounds like “like something halfway between The Maxx and Michael Keaton’s Beetlejuice,” I really can’t imagine the Commander sounding like anything but Brock Samson. Brock and Badass are very similar, after all: they’re both giant, muscle-bound heavies who may be the most considerate and rational characters in their own stories. The Commander’s soothing presence guarantees that this particular comic isn’t going to descend into an unpleasant Ripping Friends parody of manliness.
Final Grade: 3 stars (out of 5).