I actually did research for this review. I forced myself to sit through nearly a whole Smosh video. Now I did this after I read this comic, mostly because I needed some basic answers about why this book exists. In any case, before the video, the obligatory ad came up, a commercial for sparkling water where a woman gushes about the least exciting product in the world like she'd discovered an orgasm machine made of dark chocolate. I sat there, in that moment, thinking about what I was doing. Waiting through a commercial to eventually watch anti-comedy, so I could review a comic that will be flushed out of the collective consciousness as soon as the week is out. Feeling the seconds of my life ignite and turn to ash in my body as a woman giggles and coos about overpriced seltzer. What am I doing here? What am I doing with my life? I pull back from the void, not quite ready for that final disappointment yet, and find an ember of bleak amusement in one thing. That in trying to create a disposable, ugly cash in on their bewilderingly successful empire of tween bait humor, Smosh's comic book is actually better than anything the Youtube stars have made themselves. This is probably a result of the actual content-making duo of Hecox and Padilla are not directly responsible for the writing in this comic, handed off to...people...to spin their obnoxious shorts into comics. Nothing in here is good, nothing in here is funny, but some poor writer actually did sit down and script nearly a full issue of story around less than three minutes of brain damaged shrieking and mugging. I hated reading it less than something published by DC last week, that is a genuine accomplishment on behalf of the artists and writers responsible for this. They earned that paycheck, pity it meant contributing this to the world of comic publishing.
The first story is 'Super Virgin Squad', about a team of young men who haven't gotten laid because they are stereotypes and fight crime I guess. Fucking hell. The weird part about this, and the reason I had to go flagellate myself with the actual video this is based on, is the story stands largely on its own. It's based on one short, completely plotless, just a hastily written theme song and humiliating aping in front of a camera. This being the case, the comic essentially has to invent nearly everything about the characters for the sake of telling a story, for all intents and purposes creating something that is only related to the short by name and the character's designs. Despite this, the comic acts as if we are well familiar with these characters, implying running jokes that require some sort of existing knowledge of...something? Was the set up in Issue #1? I didn't read it. I only read this because I knew no one else at Bastards was going to do it. I'm like a hero like that. In any case, I spent much of the reading thinking about how Derrick Comedy basically did the same thing only funnier and with visible creative effort with their series 'Mystery Team'. The world doesn't need a 'Mystery Team' comic, but god it'd be better than this.
The art on the first story is unattractive but not incompetent. It hits that awkward intersection of a clearly Western artist taking cues from manga but not committing to the look. The worst part about the art isn't the art itself, but rather it being horribly miscast for this title. It isn't nearly wacky enough for the blunt comedy here, drawing our supposedly misshapen outcast characters like knock off shoujo fiction, with big pretty eyes and elfin features. There are points in the book where the art actually looks alright, thanks to some decent inking, but it never fits the story that needed something crasser and more exaggerated. The story is weirdly talky, but considering what it is based on (please don't consider), it's amazing the writer and artist could eke something this competent out.
More research was required for the second short, 'That Damn Neighbor', written and illustrated by Yale Stewart of 'JL8', a cute charismatic webcomic that has wrung a uprising amount of heart and humor out of the simple idea of DC heroes as kids. His art, a style that stands out easily, was actually borderline unrecognizable here, making me have to check the credits to see if it was in fact him. Again, the story is weaseled out of very thin source material, a redneck is frustrated by his teleporting silent neighbor. The joke works less well if you don't have the context of the source material, but you might hardly notice, since having the context didn't make the comic much funnier. Stewart does his best to make something out of almost nothing, but the art actually feels uncharacteristically ugly in places and the joke doesn't translate into comic form well. Go read 'JL8' instead. That comic is great.
This comic is better than the material its based on. I'd say pat yourself on the back writers and artists, but the source material made it nearly impossible to fail. They are blameless, it's a job, and god knows you can't turn down work in this industry. You can't blame Smosh either. Like Grumpy Cat, the Fine Bros., and Pewdiepie, this is the goal of what they make: money and attention. Internet fame is fleeting and unstable, they've got to shovel as much money as they can into their bank accounts before their audience ages out of them and the next generation has a newer, shriller, more vicious entertainment to share on Club Penguin forums. Dynamite shoulders the shame here. They gave Smosh a comic book. It's not like they have any dignity as a publisher to besmirch, but every new low for this industry has to be catalogued all the same. Vote with your wallets folks. Buy comics from companies that treat this medium with respect. From prioritizing genuine talent, to paying fair wages, to treating retailers like your local shops fairly, if you love this medium, not just companies with colorful brands that they dress up like legacies, then I'd ask you to consider your responsibility in affecting those trends. The comic industry is small and vulnerable to shifts in the landscape, your dollar is more influential than you think, especially at the shop level. So vote for dignity folks. Keep creators employed, the medium evolving, and keep stale meme pushers like Smosh where they belong.
Off of my goddamn comic shelf.
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