Unexpected flamethrowers. Naked hobo bowel evacuations. Consensual mutant bestiality. Not only would all of these make fantastic band names, but much like raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, they are a few of my favorite things. Just kidding. Kind of. But they are all elements - among many others - that make the final chapter of The Delinquents mini such a daggum treat. At the same time, issue four stands as proof-positive that this is a comic series that is able to, quite literally, “pull off” much more than your average book.
This last issue in James Asmus, Fred Van Lente and Kano’s team-up sees our assembled errant-boys finally discovering (via ass-map) the previously-thought mythical Big Rock Candy Mountain, and engaging in fisticuffs with the cow-person army they find there over the hobo world’s most legendary treasure, which, in the wrong hands, could lead to world domination.
One of the things I really like about this series is that, while The Delinquents is, without question, completely fucking absurd, it also holds some legitimately interesting ideas. Not least of these is an unending harvest of anything (another great band name), which could be exploited by questionably-minded sustainable meat and produce barons, like the quasi-villainous Gerald Stano. It also has a ridiculously-conceived (and named) amalgam character, but one who is in no way less disturbing for it. And then there’s the book’s big gimmick...
Kano and Asmus once again pack in a lot of narrative this issue, thanks to their given forms of whimsical verbosity, but there’s only so much that even these two even-handed story-stuffers can fit into one book, and in my view they accomplish something very clever here. Instead of drawing out some cataclysmic fight scene, the creative crew have provided (in non-digital copies) a double page spread of a battleground, as well as a corresponding main-character “sticker” set (complete with flaming hobo), which together allows the reader to interact with the story by building his or her own bespoke final fight scene.
Could this be considered a cop out? Indubitably! But is it also a fun way to engage readers tactilely, but include them in on the joke? Abso. Fucking. Lutely. And I, for one, think it’s a genius move in a series already filled with them, and showcases why Kano and Asmus need to work together again, as soon as humanly possible. Their styles complement each other beautifully.
Kano continues to find new and interesting ways to manicure his layouts, and each page seems to be its own separate art experiment. Whether it’s a 24-panel, silent movie-styled backstory of a main antagonist, a vertigo-inducing and perilous vertical climb, or just the way he expresses the dramatic moments between actions with free-floating sub-panels, Kano once again proves to be a genuine master of comic book crafting.
Similarly, Asmus’ writing style, while admittedly coming across, at times, like a Chatty Cathy (which I personally enjoy), is one that clearly illustrates how much of a blast he has doing it. And yet, even at the book’s most ludicrous and hysterical, his dialogue and storytelling both feel natural and unfettered by pretense or purpose. Frenetic, yes, but also frank; that’s a hard thing to achieve, but Asmus does it with an aplomb that should be more celebrated than it perhaps is.
In the end, I’ve loved every minute of The Delinquents and hold it to be a great exemplar of the Valiant voice: unconventional, irreverent an most of all, fun.
Story: James Asmus & Fred Van Lente Writer: James Asmus Artist: Kano Publisher: Valiant Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 11/26/14 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital