By Jason Karlson
It’s safe to assume that like a lot of folks I was equally intrigued and excited when Chip Zdarsky, already writing Howard the Duck for Marvel, announced he would be writing another series of his own creation, Kaptara, co-created with artists Kagan McLeod.
Billed as “gay Saga” and boasting an outlandish setting and wild characters, it was based in part on nostalgia for 80’s cartoons series and their toy ranges. With a gay protagonist to boot, the early previews and buzz surrounding the series was equally as exciting. Yet two issues in, I’m left with the niggling sense that I should like it a lot more then I do and have spent a lot more time desperately trying to enjoy it, rather then simply just enjoying it. I just didn’t like it, but at the same time feel really guilty in saying as much. It feels like a book I shouldn’t be criticizing.
The main reason I initially felt guilty about criticizing Kaptara is because of its protagonist, Keith. Comics sorely need more LBGT protagonists, and I’m certain from his other work that Zdarksy has the best intentions and should be applauded for his efforts here to simply not to add to the slew of straight white male characters. However, Keith is one of the main failings of Kaptara. Every form of media is littered with rogues and lovable assholes, and Keith comes across as just your regular garden variety asshole. For much of the comic, he feels far too passive in the action, simply being pushed along by events rather then driving them. His sarcastic and flippant attitude could work and might elsewhere, but this coupled with his threadbare reactions to situations hasn’t made me want to stick around to see if his character develops.
In his other books, I love Zdarsky’s sense of humour. The background details, puns and visual gags he lovingly draws into Sex Criminals are some of the funniest moments in comics at the moment. Even if it wasn’t already one of the best series on the stands, his responses to the letters in the pages of Sex Criminals would be worth the price of the comic alone. So it might seem hypocritical of me to criticize his humour in Kaptara, for the same qualities I just praised him for. A lot of the dialogue simply falls flat here, with Keith’s cynical and witty replies feeling extremely forced and particulary cringeworthy. While there was always a knowing, gleefully childish charm to Zdarksy’s humour, it was in issue two in reading “Yes, the sweat of your balls on my majestic back is evidence of this”, that I knew I was done with this series.
We know only two things for certain of Jason Karlson; that he was born on the wagon of a traveling show to Latverian parents, and that tales of his origins are wholely fictional. His writing style is pithy and insightful, with hints of oak and red berry, finished with earthy tones and somber notes. If he were to describe himself in a single word it would likely be self deprecating. He occasionally tweets over at @marfedfolf and rambles on at marfedblog.wordpress.com.