Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Comic Review - Doctor Grordbort's Contrapulatronic Dingus Directory, by Greg Broadmore

I got this one by winning a stack of Dark Horse books in a raffle at this year’s ALA Annual Conference. I didn’t think much of it at first; it’s very short, and looks like a novelty piece or an offshoot of a larger work. I was hooked by the second page, though. The humor alone is worth picking up Doctor Grordbort’s Contrapulatronic Dingus Directory.

This is essentially a fanciful catalogue of intricate, highly dangerous ray guns and other equipment for manly men who want to conquer the moon people and impress at social gatherings. There is no story to speak of, beyond the common elements of an alternate retro-futuristic universe where rugged, mutton-chopped adventurers traipse across the solar system, pillaging planets and seducing space vixens. The weapons, gizmos, and robots share a distinct H. G. Wells vibe, and bristle with random tubes, antennae, bulbs, and unpronounceable pseudo-scientific elements. The book is capped off by a richly illustrated vignette of Lord Cockswain’s adventures hunting exotic Venusian wild game with even more exotic weaponry.

Even though the book is slim (it’s even shorter than it looks, thanks to the thick cardstock pages), there is a lot of content packed into each page. The print is small, and the format perfectly emulates an old-timey pamphlet. There is a mix of illustrations and actual photographs of the products (designed and built at Broadmore’s day job: special effects powerhouse Weta Workshop) and each entry comes with both specifications and marketing copy. These little articles are the reason to flip through this faux-brochure; they are drenched in wry, bawdy humor that starts out hilarious and gets progressively more absurd. Offhand descriptions of violent intended use and horrific side-effects sit alongside meaningless retrotechnobabble and meathead slogans that could fit in an advertisement for “natural male enhancement,” all with subtle world-building and steampunk-esque gewgaws in the background. It’s a rollicking mess that’s perfect for reading in bite-sized chunks. The mini-comic at the end doesn’t add much, but the artwork is gorgeous, and it presents a nice thematic punctuation mark.

I don’t usually offer more than a middle-of-the-road rating for story-light companion pieces like this one, but I bumped it up a bit just because I found it so funny. The sense of humor is reminiscent of the violent buffoonery and bravado of the video game Team Fortress 2; sure enough, as I discovered, you can get “Grordbort packs” in the game for the Soldier, Engineer, and Pyro, with more on the way. Absolutely perfect.

Verdict: 4 / 5

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