The Perhapanauts: First Blood (The Perhapanauts #1–4) and The Perhapanauts: Second Chances (The Perhapanauts: Second Chances #1–4)
Written and co-created by Todd Dezago
Art and co-created by Craig Rousseau
I love this idea: a Bigfoot, a ghost, a psychic, a chupacabra (literally ‘goat-sucker’, an animal rumoured to exist in the Americas that gets its name from what it supposedly does), plus a bloke who is a bit of a mystery, are agents of BEDLAM (Bureau of Extra Dimensional Liabilities and Management), an organisation that tries to control paranormal problems (the unknown, the unexplained, the freaky stuff, the creepy stuff) where the fabric of reality is thin and other dimensions can make incursions. This is a solid concept that allows for a huge range of stories, and the creative team runs with it, providing a lot of enjoyable entertainment.
The team is led by the psychic, Arisa; Molly is the ghost, Big is Bigfoot (who has been made smarter and stronger by an evolve-ray) and Choopie the chupacabra (also treated with an evolve-ray but it wasn’t as successful as with Big); the mystery man is MG. The characters are introduced in a clever manner in the first issue of the first trade paperback by a janitor (who isn’t all that he seems …), where they meet a foe in the form of a chimaera. Enjoyable though the first four-issue story is, I found the plotting to be odd – it seems haphazard instead of progressing logically, pulling story elements out of nowhere and rushing through the narrative at a detriment to the story. For example, the chimaera is dealt with using ‘cement-eating slugs’ that are placed 35.6 years back in time using a time machine; there is also the use of a dimensional gate to defeat the chimaera later on. It seemed a bit random to me, although I did enjoy the book over all, with an interesting cast of characters, and back-up strips that introduce some back story and the Mothman.
The second trade carries on directly from the first book (in a Hellboy ‘series of mini-series that are really an ongoing series’ fashion) with Arisa requiring a hospital and BEDLAM in trouble due to voracious aliens that have come through the dimensional gate. MG tries to save Arisa while Big, Molly and Choopie try to save BEDLAM, with Big meeting his future self (as well as future selves of other members of the team). With all this action in the first issue of the second trade, the next issue is devoted to the characters, before dealing a little grey alien, and Karl the Mothman travelling back in time with the group (travelling through The Perhaps, hence the name of the book). These stories are fun but the pace seems uneven, much like the random plotting of the first book.
Part of the enjoyment of a comic book (and a book like this) is in the artwork and Rousseau does really good work – he does lovely character work on the individual members of the team and drawing dynamic action scenes, and his style perfectly fits the nature of the stories that they are trying to tell. The only issue I had was that his outlines seem strange, somehow pale and weaker compared with the line work on the covers, which have a much stronger, more confident line that seems more suitable to the characters and the atmosphere the book is trying to achieve. This is probably just me and my tastes in art; it’s not helped by the pin-up and introduction by the late (and sorely missed) Mike Wieringo – as a big fan of Ringo’s art, I wanted his version of the Perhapanauts, something than can unfortunately never happen.
Despite my slight artistic reservations, this is a fun title and I’ll be looking out for the collections of the Image comics (these first two mini-series were published by Dark Horse) and I should point out that Todd and Craig have a Kickstarter going for a Perhapanauts 54-page hardback graphic novel, which started in May 2015. I hope they reach their target.