Written by Matt Fraction
Art by Andy Kuhn and Tim Fisher
I think most readers aren't aware of the fact that Matt Fraction was bumping around the independent circuit for quite a while before getting noticed and published by Marvel, where he has become one of their main writers. Some of his early work, like Last Of The Independents and Five Fists Of Science are terrific, and Casanova is sublime. And then there's Mantooth.
There were three Mantooth stories told as part of an anthology series at Image, which were later collected and published alongside their script pages and with Fractions annotations in The Annotated Mantooth. This extra material was needed in order to justify calling this book a trade paperback; otherwise, it would be just a little longer than a regular comic.
Rex Mantooth is a talking gorilla trained in kung fu and making things 'splode. He has a sexy human agent girlfriend, and he goes on James Bond-style missions for the US government. In the course of these three issues, he fights an Oprah Winfrey stand-in who is training an army of beautiful lesbians, a gigantic Nazi robot called World's Greatest Grandpa, Adolf Hitler in Fu Manchu drag, and an evil scientist who turns a room full of Nobel Prize winners into zombies. I'll admit, zombie Stephen Hawkings is pretty funny.
If all of this sounds a little familiar, it's because you've seen it all before. There has, over the last fifteen or so years, been a movement to develop 'awesome' as a genre. It's where humour books like Axe Cop and Buddy Cops belong, but you could argue it also contains titles like Geof Darrow's Shaolin Cowboy. 'Awesome' comics are created by cartoonists who look for the wildest idea they can find, and mash it up with some slightly less wild ideas, irregardless of character or logical plotting. It can be fun, but it doesn't stick with you.
If that's your kind of thing, you'd probably like Mantooth. It is a fun read, but it out Michael Bay's Michael Bay. You can kind of see the seeds that grew into Casanova here, and it's always entertaining to check out a creator's earlier work, but this is not a classic.