Those Annoying Post Bros is written and drawn by Matt Howarth and Lou Stathis, though my money is on Howarth doing all the design and drawing and Stathis helping with plotting, based on not-exactly-extensive-but-enough-to-venture-a-guess experience elsewhere with Howarth’s work. The comics were published by Vortex Comics in 1987.
Those Annoying Post Bros tells the adventures of Russ and Ron Post, two scoundrel brothers resident in Bugtown, which is your basic “nexus-of-all-realities” kind of place and the brothers themselves have the ability to travel through dimensions/universes. In other words, the setting and the characters themselves are designed to allow Howarth (and to an extent Stathis) to write and draw anything he likes. The characters, I think, were first background characters in Howarth’s other Bugtown series, Savage Henry, though both books are coming out from Vertigo at about the same time.
Still, where Savage Henry is the straight man, and makes his way into this adventure, and where there are stories about Savage Henry that don’t feature the Post Bros, I’m going to say he’s the core character and these two were conceived of, at least initially, as supporting players. What’s weird, and this was a surprise to me on reading these issues, having re-read some Savage Henry issues in the last year or so, is how much more entertaining a series this is than SH.
I’m not a huge fan of comedy; I like it, but I’d almost always rather read or experience a drama. Satire is too often cheap or broad, jokes too often repeated or immediately out-of-date, too topical by half. But here, the devious nature of these essentially comic characters gives this book a narrative drive that Savage Henry, who just wants to practice with his band, never seems to feel.
In this four-part story, there’s a Maguffin, and then that Macguffin leads to increasingly frantic adventures. And really, it works quite well—in the first chapter, we learn something so valuable has come to Bugtown that Ron wants to steal it; unfortunately, so do Ron’s of other dimensions, so he must fight it out with them to get at the goods. Meanwhile, his brother Russ finds the item, which it turns out is boobytrapped inside a small creature, and it takes an issue to get it out. Then, of course, the gift turns out to be a disaster, an alien being that sucks age from people, making them younger and younger till it kills them, all the while getting larger and sending Russ and co (including Savage Henry and member of his band) on the run. Finally, in the fourth issue, Ron faces off with the beastie and dispatches him.
The energy level of this comic lies not-too-far beneath the surface of these drawings, and where in SH sometimes that energy dissipates into beautiful vistas, here the surfaces conceal just how well plotted the narrative is; the general notion of a book like this is that all forward action is merely an occasion for the artist to create bravura set pieces, and there are plenty of those here. But the story also advances, and even resolves, in a satisfying way. It’s really a very solid piece of work.
How to explain that success, then? I think there’s a real but appealing tension here, between the sometimes feathery linework and the grossness and avarice of Ron, who is a real piece of work: his encounters are both violent and a little shocking. It also helps that the concepts are easy to follow: bad guy lived inside the cute pet; people aging backwards is often funny; killing many versions of yourself is also cool. It’s good work.
It’s not perfect, of course. I think Ron’s bad assitude was probably more grating in 87 than it is now. He is, for example, a transparent attempt to make a new Wolverine-type charater: wise cracking, violent, and unstoppable. By the same token, Russ is aged back to a child so quickly that I never got a handle on his character; I think he’s meant to be as hardened and sneaky as his brother, but you don’t see much of that here. Still, this is really good stuff.
A future blog post will consider one of the back-ups, that which appeared in Post Bros #2, to see what I can do with the formal remit of this blog. Sometimes it takes a little while to figure out what I want to write about, but we’ll get there.