Also known as Image’s volume one of Flaming Carrot Comics
The manliest hero in comics is back! Yes, the man who wears an eight-foot carrot as a mask, who wears flippers and shoots a bologna gun, the man known only as the Flaming Carrot, has returned to comics after too long of an absence. Image Comics has published four solo issues of the Carrot’s book, plus a fumetti issue, and all five are collected in this book. It’s nice to see that, by and large, the character and story is pretty much still as wonderful as it was when the series appeared back in the day.
What makes these stories so fun are two things. The first is simply that the Carrot is a great comics character. With his amazing Zen stupidity, the Flaming Carrot is a true alpha male unleashed. He hates criminals and fights them in his own uniquely ruthless ways. Meanwhile, maybe because of his intense machismo, the women go crazy for the Flaming Carrot. I can’t remember the last comic in which the main character got laid as much as the Carrot does here – even a ruthless television news reporter can’t help herself from falling in love with the giant vegetable. Meanwhile, the men in this comic respond to the Carrot as a true hero.
The other thing that makes these stories so fun is the work of creator Bob Burden. I’m not sure if Burden plots his stories out before drawing them, but the Carrot’s stories have a loose, improvisational feel that feels fun and exciting. Readers don’t know what’s going to happen in the book because Burden himself seems to not know. Events progress in interesting and unexpected ways because it feels like the creator of the story doesn’t know how things will go. The stories are wacky and amusing while also feeling complex. Burden walks a fine line with this comic between the stories in this collection feeling loose and feeling out of control, and he walks the line well.
One weakness of the Flaming Carrot in the past was that there was little or no continuity between issues. Each issue was fun on its own, but the lack of continuing supporting characters or settings made the stories a little repetitious to read. So it’s very nice to see the first two chapters of this collection present a continued story. Burden constructs a very tangled and dense story – no decompressed storytelling here! – involving a zombies that sings classic rock songs, strippers, a group of pigmies making an ear out of French bread, and a man dressed up as a giant dog. The two-issue story is a lot of fun, and it highlights how good Burden’s work really could be if he opened himself up a bit.
My only frustration with the issue comes with the final issues fumetti, or photo story. In that story, some of Burden’s friends dress up as the Carrot and other characters and wander around the San Diego Con having adventures. But the story is a mess. The plot of muddled, character designs look stupid and jokes fall flat. It just doesn’t work on any level. Burden’s characters work well when drawn in his uniquely loose style, but seeing actual photographs of people wearing the costumes simply robs the setting of all its magic. The story has the feel of a dull amateur film instead of a surrealistic comic triumph. The photo issue completely fell flat for me.
Still, the book is worth buying for the lead two-parter and the third story, in which the Carrot meets his romantic match with Dynamite Girl. Okay, the fourth story, featuring an undead Joe Isuzu isn’t too bad either. If you love wacky humor, this is a great comic for you.