Monday, May 23, 2016
I Reads You Review: METACOPS #1
FANTAGRAPHICS BOOKS/Monster Comics
[This review originally appeared on Patreon.]
STORY: Link Yaco
ART: John Heebink
LETTERS: Bill Pearson
COLORS: Mary Woodring
DESIGN: Jim Blanchard
20pp, B&W, $1.95, $2.25 CAN (February 1991)
In late 1990 and early 1991, Fantagraphics Books launched a line of comic books that focused on science fiction and fantasy stories. The eventual titles were not straight science fiction, but were rather a mixture of esoteric sci-fi, weird fantasy, B-movie horror, and Underground Comix-like concepts. I don't think that the line lasted much longer than two years, if that.
I tried a few Monster Comics series, but the one that most piqued my interest was MetaCops, a three-issue miniseries created by writer Link Yaco and artist John Heebink. The series focused on the “Metaphysical Police,” an organization colloquially referred to as the “MetaCops.” The MetaCops kept the whole universe from falling apart by protecting the “flow of history” from humans, aliens, and other sentient beings that used time-travel to disrupt history.
MetaCops #1 focuses on four particular MetaCops, all of them based on deceased famous figures. The first is Jayne Mansfield (1933-1967), who was an actress and singer, one of the early Playboy “Playmates,” and one of the original Hollywood “blonde bombshells.” The next is Delmore Schwartz (1913-1966), a Greenwich Village poet and a short story writer whose most famous story is “In Dreams Begin Responsibilities” (1937).
Then, there is Albert Einstein (1879-1955), the theoretical physicist and writer, who may be the most famous scientist in history. Finally, there is Leonardo DaVinci (1452-1519), the Italian painter, sculptor, inventor, and engineer, among many things, who may be the most famous artist in the history of the world.
The MetaCops have discovered that a cabal of alien B.E.M.s (bug-eyed monsters) have traveled back in time to stop the fall of Constantinople in 1453 A.D. Of course, the MetaCops have a plan to stop the B.E.M.s... with the help of Roman legionnaires, AK-47 assault rifles, and werewolves.
Even before I ever read an issue, I thought that I would like MetaCops, and after reading the first issue, I really liked it. I'm surprised that this series has basically been lost in the annals of comic book history. Other than this three-issue miniseries, the only other time that the MetaCops appeared in print was in a one-shot special (MetaCops: Special Annual Origin Issue No. 1) that was not published by Fantagraphics. Considering all the mediocre comic books that have yielded animated television series, MetaCops is certainly a concept that would result in at least an interesting pitch to lob at the geniuses of television decision making.
In fact, MetaCops has a freewheeling spirit and a sense of goofiness that recalls Saturday morning cartoon TV shows. I will grant that two of the MetaCops, Jayne Mansfield and Delmore Schwartz, have a bit of an edge and are connected to lurid events. However, there is no particular reason that any other particular historical figure or celebrity of yesteryear could not be a MetaCop. Imagine John Wayne or Nicole Brown Simpson as a MetaCop. A fictional version of Martha Washington would work as a MetaCop as well as a fictional Michael Jackson would work as a MetaCop.
The mixture of historical figures, actual historical events, B-movie sci-fi, monsters, and combat animals (based on both extinct and non-extinct species) is what makes MetaCops seem so delightfully inventive. Link Yaco (a pen name?) offers humor that is crazy, silly, satirical, and edgy all at once or separately when needed. John Heebink's art and storytelling recalls Wally Wood, Steve Ditko, and MAD Magazine. These guys make magic. What's not to like. Well, I don't like that there is not too much more of this.
[This issues contains a second story, “The Man Who Missed the Hindenberg.” It is written by Link Yaco; drawn by Charlie Parker (breakdowns) and John Heebink (finishes), and lettered by Clem Robins.]
If the main story is not enough, the back-up story features Jimmy Hendrix, Nikola Tesla, and Boadicea. That last name may not be familiar to you if you don't remember that Mel Gibson announced plans to make a movie about her, a movie that never materialized. Boadicea was the queen of the Iceni (a Brittonic tribe) who led the Britons against the Roman Empire in pre-Anglo-Saxon Britain.
This story involves Boadicea going into the past and causing a number of disasters in order to kill a no-name, regular dude who is the ancestor of a neighbor who is annoying her. The MetaCops move to stop her. The one thing that I can say about this story is that whatever doubts I had about MetaCops as a viable concept, it vanquished them.
I am not going to lie and say that this is a great work of the comics medium. What I will say is that MetaCops is great fun to read, and some supreme works of the comics medium fail to be that.
Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux a.k.a. "I Reads You'
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