May 14, 2009

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Kaput & Zosky

Written by Lewis Trondheim
Illustrated by Lewis Trondheim and Eric Cartier
First Second

I first met Trondheim's work as part of the Dungeon series that I really need to get around to re-reading sometime soon. This is similar in style and mindset and shows that one of the leaders of the current French comics scene is quite the creator.

Kaput and Zosky are two intergalactic travelers trying to take over the world--whichever one happens to be in their sights at the time. Like Pinky and the Brain or Excel Saga, their exploits do not go so well and often serious plans go comically wrong, much to the bewilderment of the protagonists (such as when Kaput can't stop making money or they land on a planet where their every utterance is followed to the letter). Trondheim plays everything he can for laughs, the more over the top, the better.

Try to take over a gaming planet? First you have to play games just to get a straight answer! Want to destroy everything you see? Well...try doing it without your trusty blaster! Or what about taking over a planet of the undead? (The latter really made me laugh because I think it's a gentle tweak at collaborator Sfar's "Vampire Loves" books.)

Every situation Kaput and Zosky enter end up working rather like an animated cartoon (and apparently, some of them were), none of the adventures lasting long enough for the joke to go stale, just like a good Warner Brothers cartoon used to do. Once the joke gets a bit played, Trondheim hits the escape button and they're off to find another planet to try and destroy.

Kaput is the wild one, ready to blast at a moment's notice, even if that means affecting his internal functions or eating a particularly bad piece of sausage. Zosky is the straight man, setting up the situations and trying to keep the pair grounded as much as possible while often getting in trouble himself. The pair work well together, and their height and weight differentials call back to Abbot and Costello or Laurel and Hardy. While compeltely primitive, Trondheim/Catrier's art style works just well enough to carry the jokes, and doesn't require perfect anatomy. In fact, in a more traditional artist's hands, the work wouldn't hold up nearly so well.

Spaced between the main stories are little one-page fillers by Trondheim that use a spaceman for one-shot gags ala Spy versus Spy. They're cute but not really necessary. I think they'd have worked a bit better if the gags somehow related to the Kaput & Zosky stories. Still, there's nothing wrong with quick visual gags--I do own Sergio Aragones comics after all!

I'm trying to read more foreign comics work, because, you know, I really don't read enough comics. If you want to experiment in the world of French comics, too, this is a great place to start. You can find a preview at the publisher's website.