By Your References Combined: “Bravest Warriors #4”

What do Star Wars, Star Trek and Wolverine have in common?

Aside from being extremely popular franchises, they’re all referenced and remixed in Cartoon Hangover: Bravest Warriors #4, published by KaBOOM! The Bravest Warriors are a teenaged group of heroes-for-hire who traverse the galaxies, aiding aliens in need with their weapons of emotion. The members include Chris Kirkman, Beth Tezuka, Wallo, Danny Vasquez, and Plum.

In the current series, written by Joey Comeau and illustrated by Mike Holmes, the Bravest Warriors have answered a distress signal from a planet inhabited by clowns. The normally merry jesters fear for their lives because Sadness, their most formidable nemesis, has returned. In the second issue, the Bravest Warriors misinterpret the situation, falsely assuming the clowns need cheering up (the gagsters take offense to this since it implies their perception of joy is subordinate to their visitors). The clowns explain that Sadness is the god of fear and is sending nightmare monsters after them. Issue #4 picks up with the youthful adventurers battling Sadness, a blue-skinned villainess with a slight resemblance to Chucky. This comparison is noteworthy, considering she’s just as sadistic and puppetry is involved. Sadness grabs the skulls of her victims and performs a ventriloquist act.

Not even the Bravest Warriors give her pause. If the ensuing clash was a boxing match, the first round goes to Sadness. She single-handedly defeats the group, knocking them out of consciousness and existence, momentarily. Indeed, if not for the team’s inventor, Danny Vasquez, invading the privacy of his peers and installing “memory recording computer chips” into their brains, the young heroes would have died completely. As it stands, they’re only partially dead. All that’s required is to travel back to Danny’s lab via an orange cupcake, acquire new bodies through his slime tubes, and resume their quelling of Sadness. The plot eludes me. It’s a stretch, even for comics. However, it’s important to remember this is essentially a cartoon in print form. Cartoons are meant to be far-fetched and over-the-top and the dialogue written by Comeau helps maintain that illusion.

There are popculture references left and right; the two most notable, Star Wars and Wolverine. After beheading Danny, Sadness takes his skull and falsely pleads, “Oh, help me Bravest Warriors! You’re my only hope!” This is a parody of Princess Leia Organa’s iconic message to Obi-Wan Kenobi. Of course, Comeau inserts a finisher for good measure as Sadness adds, “P.S. I’m a dumb jerk!” The feral mutant’s catch phrase also receives a twist. Sadness proclaims, “I’m the best there is at what I do! And what I do is decapitate teens, and then I put on puppet shows with their skeletal remains.” She also alludes to Star Trek later on, twisting the classic one liner, “Beam me up, Scottie.” It’s ironic that the funniest character in this issue is Sadness; she’s supposed to embody unhappiness. Instead, she spreads pages of humor with her antics and imitations. She exposes Danny’s crush on Plum, makes two skulls kiss, and delivers priceless quips.

After executing the Bravest Warriors, Sadness exclaims, “I’m not so smart now either! None of us are smart! Because we’re dead!” I believe Comeau’s strategy is stereotype reversal; making people the opposite of who they’re construed to be. In the second issue, it’s revealed that the clowns cry in their sleep. The same issue shows the Bravest Warriors not acting courageous as Danny runs in terror due to his fear of clowns. At times, their conduct isn’t professional, too. In this issue, Beth and Plum check out Danny’s butt when the team’s receiving their new bodies. Wallow is attracted to Sadness, describing her as “a rockin’-hot stone-cold fox.” Comeau’s flavorful writing flows well with Holmes’ art.

The characters drawn by Holmes all have distinguished looks; no character is illustrated the same. The shape of each Bravest Warrior’s head is proportionate to their body. Because Wallow is larger than his teammates, his head looks like a basketball. Chris, the group’s leader, is skinny and therefore has a face similar to a test tube. Each is clothed in a different color, except when they all temporarily die–they shift to a glowing green pigment. Personally, I’m more impressed with the clowns. They are contrived in happy colors as is their home planet. The harlequins have blue hair, powdery makeup, red noses, and polka dot ties. Their world is filled with two-toned clouds, yellow and pink polka dot-styled concrete, and a blend of metropolitan buildings with tents.

The popculture references alone are a reason to snag a copy of Bravest Warriors #4. I was amused by Sadness and her insults. The plot is somewhat embellished for my taste, but it gets the job done. The best part of the art is Holmes’ depiction of the clown planet.

RATING 7 / 10