One of my favorite comic anthologies is back with its 4th issue, bringing with it a solid combination of familiar characters/stories and some new additional faces. Arguably more, “mainstream,” in terms of content, the latest Papercuts and Inkstains might actually have the largest potential audience demographic in comparison to some of the comic’s earlier issues. Delving into themes similar to fan-favorite films, Papercuts and Inkstains #4 takes a small step away from the doom and gloom and instead combines the constant humor with a bit more action and adventure. The violence is less graphic and gratuitous and, minus the fourth installment of my personal favorite Profits of Doom, issue #4 of the series might actually be the most suited for introducing new readers to the style and general content that Papercuts provides.
Let’s get into it!
Story #1: The Forebearer
Written by: Rob Jones & Mike Sambrook
Art by: Darren Smith
Following the rather barbaric Hogarth on his quest to kill anything in sight, “The Forebearer,” is a fun story that is entirely self-aware, almost to the point where it breaks the fourth wall in terms of its interaction with readers. The comic is one that, unsurprisingly considering it’s from the minds of Jones and Sambrook, utilizes humor throughout as a means of telling a story that certainly had the potential to be somewhat generic. Rather than simply have the brute of a main character rip beings in half with his bare hands and slice them down the middle with his trusty sword, “The Forebearer,” has hog-faced dungeon masters discussing the likelihood of a promotion and a feathery key-master attempting to procure a riddle for our central character… only to realize that what Hogarth lacks in intelligence, he makes up for through raw strength and physicality. Though he only speaks twice throughout the entirety of the story, Hogarth is an incredibly effective communicator, using his physicality to make it clear what he’s thinking and what his intentions are. Perhaps my only qualm in terms of story is how quickly everything was wrapped up. While the comic as a whole didn’t necessarily feel rushed, the final showdown between Hogarth and the big bad essentially ended in a single frame and, while the result was expected and exciting to see, it seems as though there could have been slightly more build up… or at least some indication that this epic showdown might at least be marginally challenging for Hogarth. Having said that I can confidently say that, overall, “The Forebearer,” is a fun enough story. Much like the central character, readers aren’t forced to expend a ton of brainpower to try and figure out what’s happening, and can instead flip through the pages with ease to discover why this hulking giant of a man is so focused on his potentially deadly mission.
Smith’s artwork really steals the show where, “The Forebearer,” is concerned, adding a surprising amount of realism to a fantasy comic that is rife with characters that one would never actually come across. There’s an impressive amount of detail within each panel, something that really sets this story apart. It would have been easy to focus solely on black and white, and draw this with a blocky and cartoonish style, but Smith’s expert shading and attention to detail is wholly appreciated, and undoubtedly is what made a decent story a genuinely interesting comic.
Story #2: Valkyrie
Written by: Rob Jones & Mike Sambrook
Art by: Jim Lavery
This is the comic for the people who were hoping Mad Max: Fury Road was even longer than its two hour run time. “Valkyrie,” is much of the same vein as the popular film, with questionably dressed roadsters driving through the desert and taking the notion of, “road rage,” to an entirely new level. What’s particularly fun about this comic is the fact that readers never really have any clue why the characters are doing what they’re doing. We witness a high-stakes car chase, full of futuristic expletives and a healthy dose of 21st century violence, but are never actually told why this event is occurring. It just is and it’s presented in a way that suggests that it’s the norm, a frequent if not daily occurrence in this place and time, and because of that, readers (though mostly clueless) are able to take things at face value and not overthink what’s really just a cool car chase with some badass drivers in the desert. Equally enjoyable is the role of the narrator in the comic. Chatting up the readers and giving them a running commentary of the events in the story, the invisible narrator is essentially a comrade to the audience, saying what we’re all thinking in an amusing way that adds additional humor to the comic. Additionally, the titular character of, “Valkyrie,” is definitely competent and capable enough to warrant the top-billing. Much like her onscreen, Furiosa, counterpart, Valkyrie is far-superior to the men she’s been tasked to take out… as well as the scoundrels who do her wrong in the process. As a woman myself, I have to say that it was really fun to see this no-nonsense character take disbelieving men out left and right without batting an eye. For one reason or another, there’s still a clear divide between the sexes in most forms of media, which made it that much more thrilling to see that the biggest badass of, “Valkyrie,” was an Eve rather than a proverbial Adam.
This was a fun start to what looks to be an entertaining series and, in addition to the humorous story, the artwork of the comic does a solid job at accentuating the most important aspects without forcing irrelevant images onto readers. Lavery doesn’t hold back, taking already ridiculous characters and accentuating said ridiculousness with equally ludicrous hairdos and physical traits. The characters of, “Valkyrie,” are basically maniacal psychos, which is made more than clear through Lavery’s portrayal of them.
Story #3: Profits of Doom Part 4
Written by: Rob Jones & Mike Sambrook
Art by: Mike Smith
These dummies are so consistently entertaining I can’t quite articulate how much I love them. They’re so clueless and are genuinely the last people I would ever call upon to bring an end to the end of the world, but are still endlessly amusing in their attempts. Part 4 of, “Profits of Doom,” picks up where Part 3 left off, the profits narrowly escaping a T-rex and finally coming up with the best course of action against stopping the Demon Deer and saving the world.
This series has been so ridiculous since the get go in the absolute best way possible. It’s not one that is ludicrous in an uncomfortable sense, where it’s trying to be serious and failing miserably, it’s so intentionally ridiculous and amusing that it actually manages to get audible laughs from readers… readers in this case being me. The characters are such genuine dunces that, even four comics into the series, it’s simultaneously wholly inconceivable and entirely understandable that they somehow managed to infect a deer with a demon spirit hell bent on destroying mankind and the world as a whole. These are the kind of imbeciles who use, “epileptic magpie,” as an insult and willingly admit to soiling their pants during the apocalypse. And half the time they know how idiotic they are, but the other half of the time they actually think they’re the metaphorical chosen ones meant to save the world. They’re absurd and positively hilarious and an absolute delight to read. Also, the fact that these men are named George, Mark, Colin, etc. is, for one reason or another, ten times funnier to me. These are clearly just everyday average joes, in the midst of a rather unique midlife crisis, and the fact that they’re all screaming at each other with the most basic of names is just endlessly amusing to me. God George, ya idiot. Sheesh Mark, you doofus.
I think, other than the overall humor, my favorite thing about, “Profits of Doom,” is the fact that, while the characters most decidedly aren’t, the comic itself is exceedingly clever. Most of the comics in Papercuts and Inkstains are intentionally self-aware and, “Profits of Doom,” is no different. The story itself is wholly entertaining and appropriate jokes are made by the comic at the characters’ expense, which makes it even easier to suck readers in who are likely thinking the very things that the comic points out in a subtle wink of jest. Mike Smith’s art, as always, makes for an exceptional addition to, “Profits of Doom,” and, despite the entirely unrealistic nature of the story, is so detailed that the demonic beings seem legitimate.
Papercuts and Inkstains #4 is a solid addition to the series and, as mentioned, might actually be the comic best utilized to reach a broader (even younger) audience. The themes within the Papercuts and Inkstains series as a whole are often straddling the line of the horror genre, not shying away from violence and dark humor, but this issue takes a step back and seems to focus a bit more on action and adventure. I’m sure in this day in age, comic readers of all ages will pretty much read whatever the hell they want but, for the parents who might actually monitor what their children read, I’d again say that this particular issue might serve as a, “baby step,” to its predecessors in terms of content.
I’ve said before that the best quality of Papercuts and Inkstains is the humor that serves as the root of the comics. It ranges from sarcastic quips that result in wry smirks, to outright jokes that provoke audible laughs, and is the tether that manages to link a large variety of stories together. While each story is entirely different from the next, there is a cohesion that stems from the consistent humor that somehow forms a synergetic anthology that, thankfully, is still entirely entertaining.