The Delinquents #3 continues the delightful misadventure undertaken by our unfortunate foursome as they remain hot on the trail of the hobo community’s greatest legend: The Big Rock Candy Mountain; mostly to keep it out of the hands of Mondostano, a seemingly environmentally-altruistic conglomerate secretly seeking out new and better ways to genetically fuck with, and rule over, the world’s food supply. As you might expect, Quantum and Woody and Archer & Armstrong hit a few bumps along the way, like machine gun-brandishing monkeys, surly giraffes, unkillable mutant cow-people, Libertarians, prostitutes, pie makers, Texas and hungry, hungry hobos! That’s one issue, you guys! And by-gawd, is it excellent.
But this is more than just a fun frolic through facetiousness! Sure, it shows people peeing off of trains onto other people and anatomically-correct geographic landmarks; not to mention “booby” jokes, hooker gags and other sophomoric jests and jibes. But Asmus always does something clever with his setups so that it isn’t just some puerile gutter-fest. He keeps things together by incorporating dialogue that feels like real conversation, regardless if the subject being discussed is completely asinine. That’s what makes it actually funny, at times downright heartwarming and, dare I say it, a bit revolutionary?
Even though you’d expect a book called The Delinquents to buck a certain amount of tradition, it does so in virtue of showing how to do crossover comics well. Last issue, we got a great little lampoon of the tried-and-true meet-up/mix-up/team-up progression cliché in comics, and while winking at those tropes, Asmus also takes a fresh turn on the crossover idea.
Not only does he allow the more disparate members of each team - the ones you wouldn’t expect - to find understanding and even camaraderie with each other, but he makes those meetings feel meaningful, like they might matter after the characters go back to their own respective series. So often the approach of these stories is one-and-done, but it doesn’t feel like that here. There’s one particular scene of growth for Armstrong, during a conversation with Quantum, which I think does a nice job of showcasing subtle but manifest evolution.
Meanwhile, the story in The Delinquents, while boasting Asmus’ easy dialogue and Kano’s incredible art (which I’ll get to in a minute), is itself downright interesting, and not only because we get to see a gaggle of hobos fight fuchsia-hued meat mutants atop a speeding train. Its shenanigans, while ostensibly errant, are actually grounded in conceptually-fertile soil.
Take Mr. Meat. Yes, he represents a cool and terrifying idea as a creepy-looking, immortal enforcer type, but he’s also contemporary agriculture’s idea of success: a chemically-enhanced abomination of flora and flesh, wrapped in a well-tailored suit. Not only that, but he also works for a faux-ecological evil empire in the business of mutating foodstuffs for capitalistic and intelligence-gathering ends. Sounds familiar, and of course an organization like that would want to find and destroy a place where “handouts grow on bushes ... and the hens lay soft-boiled eggs.” Ridiculous as it may be, that setup works.
So while it may be a strange thing to note about a book I literally just celebrated the absurdity of so grandly, there really is a solid, honest-to-god compelling story beneath all of the fun and games here, which comes thanks as much to its writer as it does its perfectly-paired artist.
Kano may be the first creator I’ve seen to actually pull off a cinematic montage in a comic book; and I gotta say, it’s kind of glorious. Not only do he and letterer Dave Sharpe weave the famous hobo hymnal musical accompaniment through the layouts in an eye-poppingly bright and jaunty (if a tad distracting) way, but they made it feel like something you might see on the coolest goddamn TV show of all time!
Speaking more generally, I remain in awe of how much art Kano is capable of putting into a book. It’s almost exhausting to get through The Delinquents #3, but it is never, ever boring. Whether it’s an onslaught of animals descending on their would-be captor (and the colorful avalanche of sound effects that ensues), a genetically-modified potato sprouting a rash of actual eyes or a frankly stunning desert landscape, Kano shows his ability in diversity, but also in facilitating as much story as will possibly fit into a standard comic page count.
Some readers might be turned off by the sheer number of panels he fires out this issue; especially in the train scene, one page of which features no less than 26 panels! Personally, though, I enjoy his brand of ordered chaos. It’s fast and frantic, looking like a half-solved jigsaw puzzle and setting this batty, urgent rhythm throughout. It’s a veritable feast for the eyes; alternatively haunting, hilarious, unsettling and ludicrous.
In its winks, sly smirks and out-loud ostentation, The Delinquents #3 continues the unfortunately-impermanent miniseries’ standing as one of the most purely entertaining comic books on the stands right now. If you’re missing it, I honestly feel terrible for you.
Story: James Asmus & Fred Van Lente Writer: James Asmus Artist: Kano Publisher: Valiant Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 10/22/14 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital