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Buckaroo Banzai: The Prequel #1

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Buckaroo Banzai: The Prequel #1

Credits

  • Words: Mac Rauch & W.D. Richter
  • Art: W. Chew Chan
  • Inks: N/A
  • Colors: Ken Wolak
  • Story Title: Of Hunan Bondage
  • Publisher: Moonstone Books
  • Price: $3.99
  • Release Date: Aug 13, 2008

Ever wonder about Buckaroo Banzai’s early days? Now the story can be told…

I suppose the question must be asked of what good can come of a comic book based on a cult movie that first saw the light of day over 20 years ago now. In terms of Moonstone’s first Buckaroo Banzai mini-series The Return of the Screw the answer was a lot of good. In terms of this prequel mini-series though, maybe not so much.

Life is a mixed bag for Buckaroo as the story opens. He has fame as a musician and a genius but finishing the Overthruster design still evades him and a fight injury is affecting his singing. When he runs into an exact double of himself – a double who can sing even better – Buckaroo crafts a plan that will let him keep his fans happy and give him more time for experimentation. Because Buckaroo is close to perfecting the Overthruster, so close in fact that he has a secret test site being constructed in China. As always, though, Buckaroo has enemies… even at the ends of the Earth.

Considering that Mac Rauch and W.D. Richter wrote the original movie script, created all of these characters, and wrote the previous comic book mini-series, you would think that this story would be just as authentic. Which is why it is bewildering that a number of the events that play out in this story seem to contradict both the movie and the previous comic book series. While this may be dismissed as a fannish complaint, it is important to consider that existing fans are the prime market for this story; although Rauch and Richter do manage to craft a story that could be fairly easily enjoyed by brand new fans. They approach this mini-series the same way they approached the original movie – tossing around flashbacks, driving the plot 90 miles an hour sideways without stopping to explain much and trusting the audience to catch up as they go along. There is also the traditional juxtaposition of the ordinary with the outré. While this worked in the movie and the previous mini-series here there is something slightly off. The mix does not come together as it should and there is a sense of excitement missing. Perhaps the biggest problem is that we do not see the villain and we do not know what the ultimate ends here are.

The art, provided by W. Chew Chan, also somehow misses the mark. Having the first page be in an old-fashioned print style is a little jarring since it doesn’t resemble the print style of the 1980’s (presumably when the comic is being set), instead it looks much older. Chan’s work with faces is primarily where the difficulty lies. His shadows and expressions tend to render people creepy looking rather than dramatic and he only seems to have a handful of expressions he utilizes over and over and he has a tendency to put the exact same expression on different characters to the point where, if it were not for clothing styles, you would not be able to tell who was who.

While fans will no doubt be happy for some new Banzai material and the story structure actually makes it a fairly decent jumping on point for the curious this is a story that never quite gets up to speed. Seeing as it is a two-issue mini-series it is doubtful it can manage to bring everything together in time for the final act. There is really no sense of threat or menace, no sense of urgency here and no defined villain to batter against and as such Buckaroo Banzai: The Prequel ends up shambling along instead of going into overdrive.

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