Highlight On: The Middle Man
The Middle Man Vol. 1
Have you ever found yourself living in a world where things just seem out of the norm, and you’re the only one that notices? Well, what if you’re also completely un-shocked by the seemingly weird experiences, leaving one to believe that you had grown up with it and expected this sort of thing to happen more often than it actually does? No? You don’t have anything in your background that relates to the proposed hypothetical? That’s unfortunate, but it does give you a chance to live it vicariously through the eyes of Wendy, one of the main characters in Viper’s The Middle Man series written by Javier Grillo-Marxuach and penciled by Les McClaine. Will this Buffy meets Men in Black series be for you? Check the review, you gosh darn crazies!
We meet our heroine, an art student, behind the receptionist desk in scientific lab as she talks to her mother, who seems concerned about her daughter, her choice of jobs, and her current boyfriend. Things immediately go awry as a series of explosions go off in the background, sending a squad of scientists, with and without protective suits, scurrying to and fro in fear. Eventually, a huge blob-like creature composed of human parts crashes through the wall and goes on the offensive. After destroying the forces that opposed it, it immediately sets its sight on Wendy and lashes out. She reacts calmly, all things considered, reaches for a letter opener, and fights back as the creature lifts her into the air. Enter: The Middle Man, no real name given, who saves the day, swears Wendy to silence, and frames her in order to make sure she’ll eventually end up as his sidekick in the world of paranormal.
What really attracted me to this book wasn’t what the story eventually ended up being about, which is introduced in the secondary plot of issue 1, but all the small moments before we find ourselves foot deep in the simplistic, wacky plot. The jokes and references between each page, and even the character interaction itself is fun. This isn’t a Jonathan Hickman book that you have to pay uber attention to in order to follow along with and comprehend the story. It’s the type of book where you can read all 4 issues in one sitting and smile the whole way through without a real possibility of getting lost or even scratching your head in confusion. Frankly, it’s a genre of comic I wished we got to see more of from the big two. What’s wrong with a few more series that are irreverent, but aren’t set up anything like Deadpool or Plastic Man? I say bring them on. Have a little fun with the comic book convention without having to constantly break the fourth wall and rely on adult oriented jokes.
The dynamic between The Middle Man, Wendy, and Ida, a robot stuck in the form of a librarian marm, is truly a highlight. I look forward to any scenes between the three because of the snappy dialogue, and who doesn’t love a clean mouthed Navy Seal, a sarcastic, older lady, and a college student who isn’t afraid to speak her mind? I know that is what I look for in every book that I read, don’t you? Anyway, even the supporting cast bring a lot of in the way of entertainment to the book’s charms. What specifically pops into mind is Wendy’s neighbor and the little song routine they do every time they happen to meet in the halls. It’s the little things like their relationship with one another that just hooks you.
Art wise, it’s a little difficult for me to explain as that’s not my area of expertise. There’s nothing bad about the style, but it’s definitely a bit exaggerated, and it has no qualms about showing off its pixels/dots. There are times when the panels feel simplistic, especially when you take into account the backgrounds, but then you’re suddenly hit with these very detailed character models, splash panels/pages, or scenery, and it makes you appreciate the styling that much more. It’s just another thing that just makes the book work. There’s nothing about it that I would even suggest changing; that’s how much it didn’t bother me.
In conclusion, this is an awesome series if you just want to sit down and have a good time. It can easily be read by young teens and adults, though I wouldn’t suggest it for children under twelve or so, and you’ll get more than a chuckle or two out of the experience.If you want to emerge yourself in some witty dialogue and wacky story telling, then you should be reading this series. The only negative I have to say about it is that I wish it were longer. 4 out of 5.
Updated to add:
If you want to read at least the first issue of the series, go to Viper’s site and check it out: Previews