Maintenance #s 1 & 2
“It’s a Dirty Job…” & “… Yesterday Once More”
Writer: Jim Massey
Artist/Cover artist: Robbi Rodriguez
Graytones: Jared M. Jones
Letters: Douglas Sherwood
Editors: James Lucas Jones & Randal C. Jarrell
Publisher: Oni Press
Price: $3.50 US per issue
Some may think this oddball comedy about maintenance men working at a super-secret headquarters of a number of mad scientists to be an odd fit for Oni Press, a publisher that has carved out a strong niche market with slice-of-life comics and other non-genre books. But then, those people must have forgotten one of the publisher’s most popular books in its earlier days: Judd Winick’s Adventures of Barry Ween, Boy Genius. Maintenance boasts a similar sense of humor, and at times, the same manic pace. It doesn’t quite capture the same down-to-earth, vulnerable side, though, that enables the reader to see this as anything more than a series of jokes rather than an actual story with living breathing characters. That being said, the jokes are solid, and the scripts are entertaining. The artwork by Robbi Rodriguez matches the goofy, over-the-top tone of the gags and premise, though I’m surprised he doesn’t really let loose design-wise when it comes to the various evil geniuses that pop up all over the place.
We’ve all had thankless, horrible jobs in our time, but friends Doug and Manny have what they see as the worst jobs on the planet. They’re janitors and handymen at TerroMax Inc., forced to clean up the messes that result when mad scientists fail in their development of protoplasmic monsters, animal zombie breeding and teleportation experiments. Perpetually hounded by their boss, Doug and Manny’s misery is compounded by their accidental exposure to TerroMax experiments. Of course, they’re also capable of finding trouble all on their own, but to be fair, they didn’t order the beer for the shark that walks like a man.
Robbi Rodriguez’s artwork on this book reminds me a lot of the loose, exaggerated style of Duncan (The Nightmarist, Superman) Rouleau. That approach certainly suits the extreme characters and zaniness of the plotting. A couple of the characters look a little too much alike for my taste, though, such as Dr. Mefulor and the female Dr. Rivera. Furthermore, I was surprised the artist didn’t offer up more colorful designs for the multiple mad scientists. All are simply clad in lab coats, save for a German villain who’s simply waiting for the scientists to finish a project for him. I do like the personality that the artist brings to the two main characters (as well as Cobra McPunch). He does so with some highly expressive facial expressions. If the other characters were so well realized, that power of personality would extend further.
Zombie kitten trapped in a vending machine? OK, just for the record, any comic book incorporating that element deserves praise. That weird little element, combined with everyone’s nonchalant attitude about it, sums up the premise and appeal of this title perfectly. It’s an incredibly fun and funny idea, and I hope it turns up again in future issues of this ongoing series.
The first issue of the series spends its first half setting the scene and introducing the players, and in the latter half, a plot turns up. Doug and Manny’s decision to help out a Manshark defies logic, but again, their willingness to give someone a taste of freedom (as they lament how they feel trapped) adds to their likeability. The plot in the second issue demonstrates Doug and Manny to be smarter in some ways than their employers, but I found it took me a while to warm up to the cavemen they encounter in the past. Cobra McPunch was a lot more fun than them.
Doug and Manny are down-to-earth guys, but these blue-collar grunts aren’t portrayed as stupid either. They’re schlubs, but they have opinions, interests and perspectives. While the “geniuses” of TerroMax are molding the laws of physics, they see what’s really going on, that while inexplicably profitable, the criminal organization for which they work is essentially impotent. If TerroMax wasn’t populated by failures, it would be impossible to cheer for these unlikely protagonists. They’d be contributing to death and mayhem, but fortunately, the chaos never seems to get beyond the walls of TerroMax. Doug and Manny’s cynicism yet easy-going nature make them enjoyable characters. And the fact that the romantic subplot involves Manny, the shorter, dumpier one of the two heroes, brings an added bit of charm to the mix as well. 7/10