Futurama Comics #8
Title: Planet X-Press Men
Writer: Eric Rogers
Art: James Lloyd, Steve Steere Jr.
Number eight is here in the Deep South, and looks to be some kind of X-Men parody judging from the cover. And what do you know, the cover is right! Time to put on my bright tights, a mask that Elton John would cringe at, and a hone my reviewing powers in on this latest issue. Why do I need to wear those things? I'm just more disturbing that way... And as The Tick would say, "I'm sure millions of viewers out there are just wondering what it's like to wear the tights of justice. Well, it's tingly and it's uncomfortable, but it gets the job done. And, oh, the job of it!".
Now, onto the comic. The story is fairly simple, being a parody of X-Men as I said. Professor F (Farnsworth) and his school of mutant rejects are visited by a strange robot named Benderine (Bender) and decide to take him into their team, despite some objections from Uniclops (Leela) because he has been created by Momento (yeah, you guessed it... Mom.) That's basically it, with the rest of the crew being other variations on some of the major X-Men characters, these being Wonder Boy (Fry), Rouge (Amy), The Weather Mon (Hermes), and Lobstrocity (Zoidberg).
So that's the basics, and how is the story, you may ask? Well, to be honest, rather uninspired. The main problem lies in the fact that this is a direct parody I think. One wonders why the comic series needs to resort to such a plot device so soon into its run, while barely any normal stories have been done. The fact is, I've personally not a big fan of direct parodies, be they in fan fiction, comics or even shows. They have to be very well done, original and fresh in order to work properly, and unfortunately this one doesn't meet any of those things really. Add to that the fact that the very previous issue was also a direct parody, and you have a case of "too much, too soon."
But, I shall elaborate some more. This issue basically lacks in the story department. Super hero parody has already been done on the show in Less Than Hero for one thing. For another matter, you have to be damn good to beat the likes of the Radioactive Man comics and the brilliant The Tick (the cartoon and comic, not the live-action version...) for super hero parody. To work, this issue would have needed something special. Unfortunately, it doesn't really provide much more than seeing the characters as X-Men equivalents. Though the characters are basically themselves with super powers, with next to no character change for the roles.
Why else doesn't it work then? Well, aside from a rather mundane story, it lacks anything that hasn't been seen before in attempted hero satire. There is little subtlety either, with basic X-Men references (particularly to the names of the original characters) jammed down your throat, just to make sure the reader knows what its referencing. Despite it being so obvious. There's also nothing for the real X-Men fans either. All the references are the kind that anybody who has just seen the film or cartoon will get, with absolutely not little extras or titbits for anybody else. Usually it's nice when parodying something to have more subtle refs for the die-hard fans, but while there could be, there isn't. The fact is, most of it would still be picked up by somebody who has only heard vaguely about X-Men. Also, while names like The Weather Mon and Rouge are fairly clever, names like Benderine and Uniclops lack style and originality.
Okay, so I've ranted and complained about it... surely there must be something good, right? Well, yeah. There are a few amusing moments throughout. Amy's absorbing from different people ala Rogue is cool. Fry using his powers to unscramble porn channels and mess with traffic lights is very typical of him. Zoidberg's antics are amusing, as is a nice Pitfall reference. So, yeah, there's the odd good joke here or there. Characterisation is fairly solid, with everybody acting very much in character, although there are a few tired character-gags. The Professor shines marvellously here, as does Bender. Leela's spot on too. Like I said earlier, basically themselves with the powers of mutants, and each one does suit their character parody of choice well.
Another plus, and definitely the biggest one, is the very good art. The whole thing smacks of quality, being a nice mix between the standard Futurama style and the shading and colouring of a more serious super hero comic book. Huge kudos to the artists for a brilliant looking comic. A shame there's far too many signs of pixellation throughout, which is just messy and makes it look like some parts were drawn in MS Paint and shrunk. A picture on a chalkboard is the most obvious case, but Leela's lips suffer in some panels too. A pity considering the rest looks so damn good.
To summarise though, despite a few nice gags and looking very pretty, this comic has little to offer. The story is rather dull, due to a direct parody with little imagination put in past the character designs and look of it all. Not only does it suffer from the fact the directly previous issue pulled a similar stunt, but it's not very clever, original or well written. References are too in-your-face, there's nothing subtle for the true X-Men fans, and its just really uninspired overall. If you compare this to the brilliant satire of The Tick, its just nothing. The ending isn't that good either, verging on being a cheap way out, with an overly quick and overly typical means of concluding it all. Overall, a disappointment. If you're going to buy an issue of Futurama Comics, don't get this one. There are far better issues out there.
Most Memorable Moment: The Professor turning out to be lazy instead of paralysed, running down the street with no pants on at all from his chair.
Worst Moment: The tired conclusion, with the crew "using their powers" to save the day.
- Kenneth White