By now, anyone who was a fan of the original Mystery Science Theater 3000 show knows about the successful, Kickstarter-fueled reboot starring Jonah Ray, Felicia Day, Patton Oswalt, and a host of others. I’m not sure what I expected from the first issue of the accompanying comic book, but it certainly wasn’t what we got. Rather than seeing the hilarious things that must go on in the Satellite of Love in between movies, or the hilarious adventures of Tom Servo and Crooooooooow, creator Joel Hodgson brings us a new twist on the classic MST3K format: throwing our intrepid captives into the very pages of Golden Age comics. We have comic sign!
Even with prior knowledge of the MST3K style, this takes some getting used to. The crew gets zapped into classic comics where they not only comment on the odd action and art — they are part of the comic itself. Honestly, I did have some trouble at the start separating out the commentary from the actual dialogue happening in each panel. Once I got used to looking for the amazingly small circle that denotes “commentary,” the comic flowed a lot easier.
Artist Mike Manly really captured the style of the old comics like “The Phantom,” “Mark Trail,” or a less racist “Mandrake the Magician.” He was even able to replicate the strange inconsistencies that seemed to fill the artwork of the time period, as if editorial consistency were a phrase not yet invented. Considering the whole issue is spent with Tom Servo caught in a strange, 1950s-era love triangle, I’m hopeful that future issues will, much like the TV show, branch out into different eras and genres while featuring the rest of the crew.
All-in-all, this is a solid go at essentially a brand-new format, integrating the biting (and the not-so-biting) wit of MST3K into the four-color pages of a comic book. Much like the show, long-term success for the format will depend on the writing and the innovation rather than relying on nostalgia and easy laughs.