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‘Gamma (One-Shot):’ Advance Comic Book Review

Gamma is a Dark Horse one-shot about a once-great hero turned sad sack loser, and his attempt to reclaim lost glory . . . kind of.  Co-written by Ulises Farinas and Erick Freitas, and drawn by Farinas, Gamma first appeared as a three-part story in Dark Horse Presents #18, #19, and #20.  If you missed the story in those books, here is your chance to meet Dusty Ketzchemal, a cowardly, lecherous, aimless has-been who now makes a living by letting strangers punch him in the face for being the world’s biggest coward.  If that sounds ridiculous to you, then hold on, because things get even weirder, and sadder, and funnier.  Turns out Dusty used to be the best monster trainer in all of the Monster League, and so when the monsters got out of hand, the government called him in to save the day.  Only he couldn’t, and now, in a world that doesn’t have much else to focus on other than its past failure, he is the subject of ridicule.

Dusty doesn’t hold himself in much higher regard either.  And, that is where a lot of the humor comes from.  The laughs come at the misfortune of Dusty, but before long you realize he’s brought much of this misfortune on himself, and so instead of pitying him, we want him to grow up, but know he very well may not, which adds another layer of humor.  There’s plenty of comedy in the simplistic, post-failure life Dusty has created for himself, but no sense of a future . . . until he runs into an attractive woman who needs help.  And, if there’s one thing we know about both past and present Dusty, it’s that he loves women.  Thus begins not an epic quest, but, instead, a small step in a slightly more redeemable direction, with Dusty actually having a desire to use his skills again to work towards a goal, even if it’s a self-serving, vacuous goal.  Thanks to a spectacular flashback, we realize that’s pretty much how Dusty has always been, except before he was idolized for his skills, and so he could mask his vapid predilections in the excesses of success.  Without that success, he’s just kind of sad, creepy, and hilarious.    

A true travesty would be to end this review without mentioning the fantastic artwork by Farinas, who is currently working on Dark Horse’s Catalyst Comix and whose past work includes the Image series Glory and IDW’s Transformers: Heart of Darkness.  His artwork is detailed and, at times, humorously ugly, and the bright, vibrant colors he uses make the world pop and fizzle, even when Dusty is simply languishing in his loser malaise.  The real treat though, is the creativity of the monsters, and we get to see some truly funny moments featuring some bizarre and outlandish creations, and in the flashback Farinas and Freitas’ imaginations split open and pour a plethora of monsters and heroes on to the page, brought to life by Farinas in glorious excess, just the way Dusty would have remembered it, and lived it.  While there are obviously numerous influences in this story, there is one in particular that will floor you.  There is no single giveaway, so it may dawn on you at any time throughout the story, but when you get it I guarantee you’ll grin like a buffoon, if not laugh outright.  Though even with these influences and homages, the beauty of this twisted tale is that it’s all Farinas and Freitas, the world they create is completely their own.  Hopefully, there will be future misadventures for their small-minded, misguided, selfish hero, because since Dusty is oblivious to his own flaws, he will repeatedly learn things the hard and hilarious way, if at all, and therein lies the fun of Gamma.

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