By: Fred Van Lente (story), Emanuela Lupacchino (art), Guillermo Ortego (inks), Matt Milla (colors)

The Story: Proving that a pointless existence does begin on the golf course.

The Review: I’ve frequently lamented that we need more humor-driven comics in the world.  While most titles manage to get in a couple jokes in every issue, writing a full-blown comedy requires a very different kind of craft and talent.  With a comedy, you naturally lose a lot of tension because so much of what happens can’t be taken seriously.  A writer then has to find a different way to give his story some weight so it doesn’t just float away on a sea of laughs.

Nick Spencer’s Jimmy Olsen is a great example.  The premise of Jimmy saving the world from destruction by alien-swingers by making Earth seem as dull as possible is clearly a joke in itself.  You haven’t the least expectation that the planet’s in any serious danger.  But you still have a lot of investment in the outcome because Spencer attaches a different importance to it: Jimmy’s pride and self-confidence, and whether or not he can win back Chloe Sullivan.  So yes, you get plenty of laughs, but you also still care about what’s going on.

Not so much here.  True, the whole goal of the Null is patently absurd, the way any villain who wants to destroy the world for the sake of destruction is absurd.  But it’s not an absurdity with hard laughs unlike the aforementioned planetary death by too over-partying.  There is something amusing by how committed the Null are to their illogical philosophy (“‘Immortals?’ Abominations!”  “They symbolize all we’ve fought our whole lives against—the excrescence of life—going on and on and on—”), but it’s more fascinating than funny.

Besides, the Null are just passing distractions.  Their failure is guaranteed, not just because Archer & Armstrong is, at the end of the day, a superhero comic and that’s just the way things work in this world.  We know the Null are bound to fail because otherwise, that would defeat Van Lente’s purpose in showing the One Percent planning for their power grab within the Sect, the revived Mary-Maria in tow.  I really think Van Lente made a misstep in injecting a scene portending the next arc at this point when the current arc still has legs.  It can only diminish the weight of the present storyline.

And there’s not much weight to begin with.  Unlike Spencer’s Jimmy Olsen, where the joke was usually the action or dialogue itself, Van Lente usually uses action and dialogue to set up a punchline.  In many cases, the reward is not worth the effort put in.  Obie spends nearly an entire page angsting in his lack of purpose (which mostly winds up a summary of his life to date), just for Armstrong to undercut it with the revelation that they’re in a shootout with the Null in golf carts.  In another long page of exposition, Mother Nature warns that she may be forced to destroy humanity to save herself, allowing Kay to deliver her flustered response: “You’re really giving me a lot of mixed messages here, y’know?!

Although Lupacchino is eminently suited to the mixture of humor and action on this series, she has more than enough talent for better titles, quite frankly.*  In the tradition artists like Marcus To, Travis Moore, or Lee Garbett, Lupacchino applies clean, unfettered linework to the page that manages to be at once simple and detailed, but also full of energy.  Van Lente’s gags wouldn’t have nearly the same credibility without the context Luapachhino provides.  With both Ortego’s strong inks and Milla’s rich colors, everything looks fully-formed and attractive.

Conclusion: A very mechanical sort of issue, reusing a number of typical comic book tropes with Van Lente’s humor to patch it all together.

Grade: C+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: * Having seen her beautiful covers for DC, it seems obvious that the next step should be to woo her with an ongoing at some point.  Pair her up with Bryan Q. Miller and I’ll probably be the first to pick up that series.

– So.  The Null-Mind Equation.  Blatant Anti-Life Equation rip-off?  Anti-Life Equation parody?  Both?