The Middleman: The Collected Series: Indispensability
by Javier Grillo-Marxuach, Les McClaine (Viper, 2008)

If you read my review of volume three of The Middleman, Inescapability, you might recall I stumbled onto the series late in the game and urged Viper Comics, the publisher, to send me the earlier two volumes right away so I could catch up.

In what was certainly a marketing blunder, they didn't. But a loyal reader was apparently curious what I'd think -- thanks to Tracy of Nashua! -- so I settled in to enjoy the full story in the recently collected edition. What fun!

The Middleman is an American superspy who falls somewhere between James Bond and Captain America. Wendy is his new sidekick, chosen after the Middleman witnessed her face without flinching the slimy and tentacled thing that appeared without warning in the DNA lab where she worked as a temp receptionist. Now she's being trained to do superspy/sidekick stuff, even though she really wants to be an artist.

The book contains three major adventures by writer Javier Grillo-Marxuach, plus a few side trips and flashbacks in time. One deals with gangster monkeys, another with Mexican wrestlers, a martial arts expert and a diamond-generated laser cage. The third has a giant alien robot and the global organization of evil known as F.A.T.B.O.Y.

It all comes together with quirky black-and-white art, courtesy of Les McClaine. The expressiveness of Wendy alone would sell me on this book. But even the good art and genuinely entertaining plots pale in comparison to Grillo-Marxuach's excellent dialogue, which just makes this book sing.

The storyline has since been picked up by the ABC Family network for a season of live-action television. I have no idea how good or bad the series might be, but I hope Grillo-Marxuach and McClaine get back to work soon to produce another book.

And this time, I hope Viper sends it along. If they don't, I trust Tracy of Nashua will be watching.

review by
Tom Knapp

20 December 2008

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