Not since 1993’s seminal Marvel hit, Slapstick #3, wherein the titular alien cartoon clown protagonist does battle with unforgettable homeless villain Neutron Bum, have I been this interested in a story about comic book hobos. Valiant’s Delinquents series makes up for its regrettable lack of cosmic-imbued derelicts with a tight and hilarious story that does a legitimately interesting job of weaving in the actual culture of rail-riding vagrancy. I don’t mean that as a joke, either. Ever since I came across the very real and historic “Hobo Code” (though I’m not sure it’s actually called that), or the demarkation symbols Asmus and Van Lente use to build their treasure-hunting story, I was mystified by an almost Nerverwhere-ian possibility that there was this whole magical society made up of scraggly bearded drifters. Couple that with two of my favorite superhero stories currently on the market, and you’ve got a friend in me.
I had a ball with this book’s first issue, but I have to say I dug Delinquents #2 even more, not just because it doled out a welcome dollop of fan-service, but for being the expertly-paced, hilarious thrill ride I always wanted out of this series. I mean, throughout the course of this book, we get an intro featuring a stampede of mutant bulls, which then leads to a joke subtly touching on the noble art of animal husbandry. From there, it spills over with grizzly murders, unkillable flesh monsters and dubiously-gotten Leonardo da Vinci flying machines.
As if that wasn’t enough, we then get what we’ve all been waiting for - that fan service I mentioned above (and I don’t mean that as a bad thing) - a knock-down, drag-out bust up between our dynamic duos, which obviously starts with a misunderstanding and ends with a newfound alliance. One of the great things about this scene is that Asmus knows he’s being cliché. He outright says it at one point through Woody. And it’s amazing, both narratively and visually.
The interaction and repartee between each pair of opponents as they square off with their respective sparring partners is fucking fabulous, and Asmus absolutely nails it both with his by-now standard organic sense of humor and in his perhaps undersung ability to use it in properly pacing a story.
Meanwhile, on art, Kano is a goddamn beast, whose work here matches Asmus’ talents - especially his humor - quite possibly like no one else has. Speaking of slapstick (this time the concept, not the “beloved” character), Kano uses a lot of it here, but it never comes across as trite or hokey. Sure, characters push bookcases on each other, they drop dinosaurs on one another, one of them does the old “spilling water through the bullet hole” Looney Toons gag, and they even perform the tried and true comic book combat maneuver of punching/tackling each other through walls and over precarious cliff faces. I love that, by the way.
But all the while, Kano’s action remains grounded in sharp lines and some legit badass fighting moves that keep it from tumbling deeper into outright farce, while still maintaining a light tone. Structurally speaking, he doesn’t pull as many clever tricks as last time, adapting a more conventional layout scheme, that has let him tighten up his art more this issue and focus on the action at hand. And
Despite taking a longer release time than is desirable, and maybe because of it, Delinquents #2 is a comic book that does not skimp on story. From start to finish, this thing delivers full-on, gassed-up comic bookery of the highest order, and if you’re not reading it, maybe it’s you who’s off the rails.
Story: James Asmus & Fred Van Lente Writer: James Asmus Artist: Kano Publisher: Valiant Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 9/17/14 Format: Print/Digital