Review: Beast Commandos #1

Call me traditional, but when a comic book cover shows a guns-blazing, cigar chomping anthropomorphized soldier shark jumping out of an explosion and away from a team of similarly angry, human-looking animals, led by a rip-diesel walrus mugging-out in a high-collar white polo and clutching a SuperSoaker, I’m probably going to read it. With an incredibly ridiculous (and ridiculously alluring) title, and captions boasting “VIOLENCE and GRITTINESS served directly from the ‘epic era’ of the 90’s!!” - as well as the more meta “And Captions!” - this cake has just the right amount of icing to make me take a bite. And for the most part, I’m glad I did.

As a sort of spiritual successor to the largely forgettable 1989 toy line, Barnyard Commandos (if only in nominal similarity), Beast Commandos follows Dark Shark, a battle-hardened killing machine befitting his name. Mixing the badassery of Rambo and the dad humor of Rodney Dangerfield (whose last name would be an appropriate addition as Dark Shark’s own), he’s on a mission to find and presumably kill the addictively gun-toting Don Walrus, who is hiding in his secret refuge somewhere in the thinly-veiled “Duck Kong.”

Beast-Commandos-#1-10.29Along the way, Dark Shark kills ... wow, just a shit-load of ducks - brutally, might I add - as well as a fair share of other assorted wildlife, up to and including rabbits, horsies, chimpanzees and alligators. As you might expect, all of this wanton carnage against the animal kingdom gets the attention of Don Walrus, who puts together his own crack team of furious furries, before Dark Shark shows up and we are left desperately clinging on to the possibilities of what might happen next! Presumably more bullets.

Beast Commandos does exactly what it says on the cover, and because of that, it’s silly, mindless fun. I mean, there’s a killer whale in this book named Buttface, and it features a bunch of similarly-asinine animals, all of whom are either armed to the teeth with guns, or conversely have their arms and teeth removed by guns. It’s absurd and juvenile and ... look, it’s just a really fun way to spend 10 minutes of your life. I certainly had a ... blast ... with this book, and personally can’t wait for its next issue.

Bonet pulls double duty on art and story here, and while his narrative approach is basically back-to-back gags that serve the minimum of progressing the story along entertainingly, his art is more nuanced. I write that while looking at a page where a fucking man-shark eviscerates a bunch of ducks using his inner rage and outer pistols, but the compliment stands! Combined with Moruno’s impressively deft use of color, this book looks great in its cartoony but detailed art. In both its tone and its look, this will probably appeal to fans of books like Ryan Browne’s God Hates Astronauts. But ... there’s a but. And I don’t mean Buttface.

Even though there is literally an elephant in a room in this book, I can’t write this review without mentioning what I perceive may be its more metaphorical one. And maybe it’s not that big of a deal; I certainly don’t hasten to judge, but there are a couple of scenes in this book that may offend, ant not in the gorily offensive way in which this book was clearly built.

I’m talking about how Beast Commandos lampoons a couple stereotypical East Asian accents; perhaps none more brazenly than via a Japanese ninja spider (cool concept, though that is), whose dialogue includes the line “Retu me guessu...” Now, comics often use phonetically-written accents, whether in mimicking a certain patois or jocking a given vernacular to denote ethnic background. But its use here may be off-putting to some. If nothing else, it certainly shows the fine line writers should possibly be more aware of when going for that kind of humor.

That whole debate notwithstanding, I enjoyed the hell out of Beast Commandos. For the most raucous, ludicrous fun you can legally have with armed animals this week, accept no substitutes.

Score: 4/5

Writer & Artist: Roger Bonet Colorist: Sonia Moruno Publisher: Amigo Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 10/29/2014 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital