Matt Chapman & Andy Suriano’s ‘Cosmic Scoundrels’ Is The Bros In Space Comic You Need In Your Life [Review]
It was pretty much a foregone conclusion that I was going to love Cosmic Scoundrels. The very idea of it, two bros cruising through space on a starship called the S.S. Fistpuncher, hijacking precious cargo from malevolent aliens and just generally pissing everyone off, is right up my alley from the start. I've been a sucker for outer space buddy comedies for as long as I've been reading, so I'm already on board before I even hit page one.
But then, if you tell me that it's written by Matt Chapman, one of the creators of Homestar Runner and the actual voice of Strong Bad, and drawn by Andy Suriano, an animator who worked on Samurai Jack and the new Mickey Mouse shorts? There's just no getting around it: I was going to love this comic from the moment it was made. And fortunately, it really is that good.
At its heart, Cosmic Scoundrels is exactly what it says on the cover: Two gentleman of dubious morals who are prone to doing crimes, and who also happen to be in space. This will be your first clue that subtlety is not exactly what Chapman and Suriano are interested in, but rest assured that it will not be your last.
Instead, they're interested in just going all out from the moment things get started. That's one of the things I really love about what they've done so far -- and what I love about first issues in general, as we've seen pretty recently -- it hits the ground running. There's no real setup involved, it's all done through the action, and the action is bizarre.
Take, for example, the fact that the very first thing that happens in this comic is an assault on a gigantic, improbably shaped starfaring cruise ship/waffle bar called Midnight Fernando.
You know, just in case you forgot this thing was written by one of the dudes who brought you Senor Cardgage.
There's zero setup, and I love that. Everything is just doled out as it goes, with the expectation being that readers will catch up as it goes along, and Chapman and Suirano sell it beautifully -- particularly Suriano, whose art is phenomenally engaging. There's an energy to it that's hard to describe -- it's almost like it's unfinished, and while that sounds like an insult, I mean it in the best way possible. It's like he's scrambling to draw each page and keep up with these two dudes as they're bouncing through the impossible plans and daring escapes that start showing up on page 4 and haven't really let up since. Anything that was more refined -- or that looked more refined, I suppose -- wouldn't have the urgency that's on display here that leads you from one moment to the next. Even if the characters weren't immediately engaging, the art would be.
But those characters. Man, those characters.
Look. As much as I'm a sucker for buddy comedies in space, I'm an even bigger sucker for characters with names as bonkers as "Love Savage and Roshambo," especially when the latter's name is explained by a scene where he activates his "Galactic Gauntlets" by shouting "ROCK PAPER SCISSORS!" It's beautiful, and it's the exact touch this comic needed to push it over the top into being the lurid, hot pink VHS action space comedy that I've always wanted in my life. Also, it should be noted that the panel above represents Party Steve's only appearance in the comic, due to his untimely but presumably expected demise. I have never hoped for a flashback more in my life.
Right now, you can read the first three chapters of Cosmic Scoundrels online as a webcomic at CosmicScoundrels.com, and I'd suggest you do. But it's worth noting that it's definitely not the only way that Chapman and Suriano are delivering the goods. There's already a printed version that they're selling at conventions -- Suirano had copies at Emerald City in Seattle last month and promptly sold out in less than two days -- and on the off chance that this book needed something else to recommend it, there's a gimmick.
And that gimmick is that it is huge.
You will note that I included a copy of 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand for scale.
Incidentally, if you're wondering who that is on the cover, it's Liberty Justice, the star of Cosmic Scoundrels' sister comic, by Suriano and Tyler Shainline. It was a little harder for me to get into than Scoundrels -- Shainline's story is edging more towards '70s blaxploitation cinema, and compared to the good-natured, rollicking adventure that's set up in Scoundrels, the bonkers over-the-top exploitation callbacks read as a little jarring. Fortunately, as the stories go on, Shainline and Suriano push it way over the top into something that justifies its premise and ends up being pretty enjoyable. Also, it is predictably gorgeous. As of right now, those strips have yet to be put online.
The print version clocks in at 11" x 17", the size of a comic book art board, and it's beautiful. Suriano's art somehow looks even more frantic and kinetic when it's given space to breathe and you can see just how detailed it is while still looking effortlessly quick.
There's a tradeoff, though. The print version has the bigger art (and is a beautiful, unweildy piece of comics), but you don't get the extras that come along with the webcomic version. In the tradition of Chapman's other work, there's a caption on each page of the comic that occasionally contains an extra, whether it's a "hidden" page revealing a little more about the villains, or just providing alt-text style commentary. A few of them make it into the print version -- there's a blueprint for Midnight Fernando that shows up early, and then is marked up by Love Savage and Roshambo to reveal their daring plan at the end, and the latter makes it into the print version -- but most of them are only available online, presumably to keep from breaking the flow of the story in print.
Whether it's in print or online, Cosmic Scoundrels is a pretty amazing comic. It's been a long time since I've loved something this much with this few pages to get through -- probably since Trip Fantastic, another bright pink, morally suspect adventure -- but it's one of those things where I genuinely can't wait to see more.
And I definitely want to see it as huge as humanly possible.