Muscles & Fights 2: Musclier and Fightier
I praised the first volume of this anthology series for its high concept idea: Every contributor has to submit a story that contains muscles and/or fights. At the time, it seemed to be a vague enough concept to explore any variety of styles and approaches, but the theme provided a nice unifying consistency to the entire book. But, does the concept hold up for a whole new collection of stories?
Hell, yeah! This could well become a very long-running, satisfying series. There’s still life in here yet, that’s for sure. And the best thing is that the majority of the returning contributors have really stepped up their game for their second outing.
For example, one of my least favorite stories from the first volume, Jon Sloan’s Matrix homage featuring his karate character Sa-Bom Jim, returns here with an all-new adventure with his character, this time building up an involved story about Jim and his gang versus an evil organization. I really liked the main character here, and Sloan punches things up (pun vaguely intended) with a ton of nicely choreographed fight scenes.
Other high points from the returning creators include a new adventure of Danno Klonoski‘s Supermarket Vigilante that proves this wasn’t just a one-note character in the first edition. This time we get a poignant story of unrequited love featuring the sidekick Bag Boy and a funny “villain” character.
Leith St. John is also back with a new superhero parody, the queer Fantabulous Four who could probably sustain a full-length book on their own, that segues into an alarming tale of prison lesbians fighting. The dwarf S&M warden is a classic character, too.
Zander and Kevin Cannon are back with new boxing rounds that are jams with fellow cartoonists Tim Sievert and Steven St. Walley. The match-ups are good and surprising, featuring characters with great names like Barnabas Rutledge, the Golf of Mexico and Brow Baby. That last one is an actual baby.
Bob Lipski has an awesome new Uptown Girl story in which the title character and her friends go to the video store, have an interesting conversation about the nature of violence before getting into a brawl of their own with another customer. Although the story is mostly talk, Lipski keeps it lively and I love his simple character designs. It’s cute art accompanied with some serious food for thought.
Alberto Rios has another sci-fi adventure featuring cute little robot characters. Not much in the way of muscles here, but the action is fast and furious with great elements of design and layout.
Anthology co-creator Bud Burgy also returns to continue with his characters Meatfist and Gronk, this time taking on their adversary Twelve-foot Davis in a Sears store. I would have hoped for a totally new adventure for these characters, but again Burgy sets up some great gags within the story’s environment.
The other co-creator, Arex, has another abstract, wordless Goon Squad tale in his spare, geometric style. Looks great.
Finally, there’s the return of Earl Luckes, Jr.’s Mort. Rather than a full story, this time we get a spot-on parody of old grindhouse-style movie trailers. Once again, I love Luckes’ “dirty”-looking ’70s underground comix art style and a story that includes a great line like “I’m delivering the milk,” you just have to love it.
The newcomers to the anthology aren’t slouches, either. There’s Daniel J. Olson‘s wonderfully surreal “Tale of the Cursed Coin,” which has two characters looking for an evil nickel lodged in another dude’s afro. It’s a totally bizarre, loopy tale where with each sequence Olson kicks up the weirdness an extra notch, which you don’t think is possible until he does it.
Beautifully illustrated is Matthew Kriske’s “Rock Me, Sock Me” starring those classic fighting robot toys. Rather than fighting, though, we get an existential conversation about the agonies of living. Ok, there is a little fighting, too.
Kevin McCarthy‘s contribution “Fantasy Fighter” is also very reminiscent of old ’70s underground comix. It’s dirty and surreal, yet the art is sparse enough so that each page looks almost like a kids coloring book, giving the story a suprising innocence and naivete.
Ryan Dow chronicles his lifelong conflict between women and his superhero drawing ambitions in an emotionally raw, funny tale. Meanwhile, Todd Coss serves up a very bloody homage to old Troma movies with “The Surf Nazis From Hell.”
Also included is a very short, but humorous and with great art “King of the Unknown vs. The Mighty Skunk Ape” by Marcus Muller and Michael Roanhaus; a brief punch-fest by RanDiggity; and evilly violent story starring Scott Tauser’s Bukit Hed villain; and Bernie Gonzalez’s “The Rage of Andy Warhol,” where Warhol turning into the War-Hulk is a great concept, but Andy as an excessive talker? That’s odd.
This really might be a superior collection over the original.