Editor’s Note: Uncouth Sleuth will arrive in stores on August 24, 2011. This is an advanced review. Orders for the book should be placed with comic book shops now.
Jason Sacks: Buckle up for the return of the world’s greatest adventurer! Well . . . not quite. Uncouth Sleuth tells the tale of Harry Johnson, the world’s most renowned private investigator who always ends up on top, in more ways than one. This irreverent little epic is one part Indiana Jones, one part Dick Tracy, and two parts Leisure Suit Larry. It deftly picks apart the absurdity inherent in all of pop culture’s favorite detective, spy, and adventure movies and magnifies them to produce side-splitting gags that will keep you turning page after page.
There’s a fine line between silly and stupid, and Uncouth Sleuth walks that line. It’s basically about 100 pages of slapstick and silly jokes, with just a slim story to carry the jokes along. Full of an absurd number of jokes about female and male body parts and sexual passions, this book somehow manages to stay in the slightly clean range rather than being too raunchy. To do so takes a lot of work on writer Charles Fulp’s part, some of which works and some of which is just annoying.
Felicity Gustafson: Honestly, I thought most of it was dumb humor, but I couldn’t stop laughing anyway. I mean, the guy’s name is Harry Johnson and his sidekick’s a stripper… You’re pretty much destined for perverted hilarity from cover to cover.
Sam Salama Cohén: I’ll just say this, I loved the silly “Who’s your daddy?” joke. Seriously, Fulp and Craig Rousseau achieve what they went for: a silly Indiana Jones spoof with lots of T&A jokes. Ero-fun? Yes, though I expected a little bit more meat to the story–though, come to think of it, there’s a lot of female “meat” exposed.
Sacks: For instance, there’s a joke that I thought was pretty funny that involves women’s nipples getting hard as they become aroused. It’s a “booby trap” that involves breasts–get it?
Well I found it cute anyway. Other jokes fell flat for me. The bit at the end about a breast enlargement serum was just stupid; it seemed dumb rather than humorous.
Gustafson: So far it’s the only comic I’ve come across with a bright pink sex toy that comes up twice in the story, and I will admit to laughing like a prepubescent child. The Aryan snuggle bunnies, otherwise known as the gay Nazis, gave me a pretty good chuckle, too.
Salama Cohén: Even those gay Nazis had an army of hot women at their disposal! But yeah, cute tits and ass jokes can only go so far, even for my twisted brain (which then again, loves all the Zucker Bros. Movies), and I enjoyed some of the silly play on words.
Sacks: I think a comparison to Airplane and the Naked Gun movies is right on. Just like in Uncouth Sleuth, some of the jokes in those movies are memorable (“I am serious, and don’t call me Shirley”) while others are forgotten as soon as the scene moves on (who remembers the disco scenes at the beginning of Airplane?).
Gustafson: I was surprised when Leslie Nielsen didn’t actually make a guest appearance in this book. If you could cross Indiana Jones with the Naked Gun, you’d have Uncouth Sleuth in a nutshell. However, Johnson definitely pulls off the hat better. Nielsen in a snap-brim fedora would look a little out of place.
Salama Cohén: I do remember that disco scene, Jason! Two girl-scouts fighting to death! Funny as hell, man. However, I felt like Johnson’s perverseness went even further with each episode, and though many Nazi jokes made me smile, I would have enjoyed more clever jokes every now and then. Because, remember, I’m a sucker for the Zuckers!
Sacks: You know, despite the fact that the women in this book are all sex objects–even the Nazis–they are all pretty tough, too. Just like Karen Allen in Raiders of the Lost Ark, Harry’s partner, Fanny Sellers, is a strong woman who is often the smartest person in a scene.
Gustafson: Fanny does seem to be the brains of the operation, despite being the sidekick. However, in comics, it’s a little hard to find female characters who aren’t sex objects. Look at Lara Croft, she’s smart, beautiful, and kicks butt, but what is she known for? Her ample cleavage.
Salama Cohén: Yes, Fanny is interesting because I don’t know who’s saving who in this story. Harry goes through a lot of trouble to save our lovely stripper, but she’s really the one saving his sorry . . . saving him every time!
Sacks: The art by Rousseau and Norman Lee really helped make the story more entertaining. It’s loose and cartoony enough to be silly while just realistic enough for it to make the story seem at least slightly real.
Gustafson: The artwork does go well with the story. Even though it looks like a more modern style, there is still a bit of classic sense to the drawings; they remained unrealistic just enough that you didn’t feel like taking the story too seriously.
Salama Cohén: Yes, these two guys make a great pair. The over-the-top jokes and sex-related humor needed an equally exaggerated and cartoony art to have the story and the jokes flow. If this volume sells well, I smell a sequel.
Sacks: Overall, I liked this book. It made me giggle a few times and I thought its crazy silliness made this story pretty special.
Gustafson: Where else are you going to find Nazis, strippers, and cannibals? Top it all off with an Indiana Jones-esque main character who’s a skirt chaser and I’m in. Definitely worth the read if you have more comedic leanings.
Salama Cohén: If you want to head out of never-ending continuity and books that tackle serious issues, if you feel like diving into an endless joke on sexual, then this is your book. On the other hand, if you’re looking for the reason of your existence, please head the other way!
Editor’s Note: Ariel Carmona was not able to participate in the above round-table discussion. His solo review follows.
Ariel Carmona: The artwork is decent–reminiscent of some of the good pencilers in the industry backed up by more than competent inks by Norman Lee. The chapters all start off with a tribute to pulp fiction serials from the 40s and 50s, which comic books nowadays are based on. The chapter covers resemble the covers to the old serial novels in which detectives, cops, and other fictional archetypes used to be prevalent.
Now that I got “the good” out of the way, I cannot begin to relate the bad aspects of this comic book. While it certainly attempts to depict the most non-PC sleuth in the world, and while I will be the first to enjoy a good genre parody, Harry Johnson is guilty of two cardinal sins: Being a walking cliché (and a humorless one at that) and being the personification of a sexist, misogynistic scoundrel. I can barely forgive writer Charles Fulp for the latter, but the former sin is the most egregious.
A book that is supposed to be funny fails on arrival because it not only is littered with clichés and jokes that are teleported from the proverbial mile away, but because of its plethora of unlikable characters–not the least of which is the book’s protagonist.
Adolescent jokes about flatulism and big boobs? Check.
Trite villains and sidekicks and mindless Nazis? Check.
Gratuitous boob shots and panaromic shots of half-dressed babes and nearly topless bimbo adversaries? Check.
Uncouth Sleuth doesn’t leave any cliché unexplored–or, rather, re-exploited.
I could probably stomach the bathroom humor–the
sex jokes peppered throughout the story for the sake of trying to shock, entice, or delight (none of which happen to land). However, Harry Johnson ain’t funny–and for a funny book, that’s a very glaring error.