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Comic Book Review: Tek Jansen #1

If ever there was a property ripe for comic book tie-in, it's Stephen Colbert's Tek Jansen (Oni). The character's been a good cartoon bit on Comedy Central's The Colbert Report – where the comedian has used his persona as a right-wing blowhard to tweak both the libertarian/conservative leanings of old-school American sci-fi and the inanity of faux-celebrity-penned series like William Shatner's Tek Wars. Now, with vaguely defined reference to the comedian's "thoughtfulness and input" into the project, a five-issue comic book mini-series of Jansen adventures has debuted. Diehard members of the Colbert Nation have doubtless already read and reflected upon each deep nugget o' punditry from the first ish (especially since Colbert's been on vacation for the past two weeks), but for those of us simply lookin' for a good chortle, how does TJ stand up when placed against s-f funnybook landmarks like Lobo or Cosmo, the Merry Martian?

Well, the book made me chuckle. The premiere ish contains two drolly "action-packed" tales: the first, scripted by John (Scarface) Layman and illustrated by Scott (Days Like This) Chantler, is a featured serial, while the second ("Horn Like Me") is a stand-alone back-up by Jim Massey and Robb Rodriquez. In both tales, intrepidly pudding-headed Alpha Squad agent Jansen meddles in planetary affairs to typically disastrous consequences. In "Invasion of the Optikons," our hero arrives on Alphalon-7, where an ultra-powerful race of alien visitors has arrived offering "stupefyingly sophisticated technology" in exchange for donating a "micro-percentage" of the planet's surplus energy to a nearby needy planet. Tek smells a rat, of course – as a good free marketeer the idea of giving away even a smidgeon of unused energy is abhorrent – so he disregards his superior's orders and barges into the ceremony, sparking an intergalactic war in the process.

Layman & Chantler's Tek is an effective comic book caricature: so convinced of his unalterable correctness that he's incapable of processing anything that conflicts with his rightness. (Chantler's art makes "heroic" Jansen look like a pissed-off stockbroker.) Layman captures the comic's stentorian self-satisfaction to good satiric purpose, though many of the funnier moments come from an amorphous evil named Meangarr who Tek keeps imprisoned in a "contanium" bird cage until the nefarious creature learns to like him. Showering threats and verbal abuse from his cage, the villain makes it clear this day is never gonna come. Doesn't bother Jansen: like his teevee persona, he remains happily and entertainingly insulated by his thoroughly unjustified self-certainty.

In the first back-up, "A Tek Jansen Case File," the satire is even broader. Our hero dons horns to go undercover on a planet with two races, those with horns and those without, and though he actually ham-fistedly completes this 'un, it still ends unhappily for all of the planet's inhabitants. A Quick Question for the Class: who's more dunderheaded, Jansen or the Intergalactic Agency that Employs Him?

About Bill Sherman

Bill Sherman is a Books editor for Blogcritics. With his lovely wife Rebecca Fox, he has co-authored a light-hearted fat acceptance romance entitled Measure By Measure.