Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Chronic Review: Canterbury Cricket # 1!

Flashpoint: Canterbury Cricket # 1
DC Comics
Script:     Mike Carlin
Pencils:   Rags Morales
20 pages for $2.99

I suppose the quickest way I know to sum up Canterbury Cricket is to say that it is charmingly awful.  As a story it rarely makes sense.  The characters are often grating, and references are so on the nose you need to check for bleeding periodically.  By the sophisticated standards of modern comic book storytelling, this is not a good comic.  Really, really, not a good comic.

And yet.

First off, let's mention that The Canterbury Cricket is not a mini-series, as most of the Flashpoint tie-in books are.  This is a one shot story designed to convey the Cricket's origin story while adding a little depth to the war between Atlantis and Themyscira.  It's got a lot of work to do in twenty pages, that's for sure.

The Canterbury Cricket is in fact Jeramey Chriqui, a student at Kent University.  Yes, Carlin actually named his cricket character Jeramey "Chriqui", just as Stan Lee might have done in 1964, and just as no sane person would attempt in 2011.  He's sloppily and brusquely identified as a procurer of information several times in the text, although how he actually goes about that, or what skill set he possesses to make that possible remain a mystery.

In fact, Chriqui is about to collect a little cake in exchange for some of his high value information when a platoon of Amazonians start killing everybody.  Now, why they'd pick Kent University to attack is not clear.  How they got as far as the University without any of these social network addicts knowing about it is beyond my understanding.  Did they paratroop in?  Everybody is just standing around talking about chem lab, and next panel people have swords stuck in them.  Anywho.

Chriqui gets caught in an explosion and half his face falls off, so naturally he makes sure to grab hold of Becca, his secret crush.  In one of the most blindingly terrible scenes in comics history, Chriqui is literrally chasing this poor woman around campus with his eye falling out while begging for help, since he knows she secretly has the hots for him.  Just.....bizarre.

Ultimately, Chriqui finds himself in Canterbury Cathedral, (there have been plenty of Chaucer references jammed into with a pneumatic hammer by this point as well) and his prayers for protection are answered by Saint Swithin.

And here is where things get slightly interesting to me.  Saint Swithun (or Swithin in the comic) was a real historical figure (Bishop of Winchester circa 860) known for his posthumous miracle making.  Pieces of him are scattered all over, but as depicted in the comic, his skull was in fact housed in Canterbury Cathedral.

Saint Swithin spares Jeramey from an Amazonian execution, but there is a price.  He now wears the hideous exo-skeleton of the Canterbury Cricket.  In many ways, this is incredibly stupid.  I found it also charming, though.  I like the fact that he was turned into a monster instead of an angelic figure, I like the historical references, regardless of how absurd they might be.  I even find myself swayed by the ridiculous name.  It's comics, you know?  This is a comic that obviously loves comics, and that part I'm in favor of.

The rest of the execution is lacking, however, though not all of it is Carlin's fault.  At least, I don't think it is.  He's obviously been instructed to introduce about 17 metric tons of characters and backstory, and that's not easy to fit into twenty pages.  Large chunks of the book are simply there to showcase a group of resistance fighters, which include Godiva, Mrs. Hyde, Etrigan, and Wicked Jinny Greenteeth.  And I found that I enjoyed Jinny despite myself, and cringed at the fully clunkified Demon "rhyming."

And then toward the end the Cricket describes a team of  "Ambush Bugs" that are instantly ripped away, since Cricket is apparently the only surviving member of the band.  They're introduced specifically to make the reader say "Oh, that might have been good, oh wait, they're all dead."  It's a curious choice.  There are lots of curious choices in The Canterbury Cricket.

The funny thing is, I think as bad as this comic gets, there's a vein or two of gold to be mined by a better creative team, or maybe this creative team with a little more room to breathe.  There's a monster here with a Captain America level honor code and an historical ghostly saint watching over him!  It's just crazy, and crazy is better than boring.  But yeah...this?  Not good.

- Ryan

No comments: