Ut again.

*I wasn’t in the best mood today, but then this fine Batman cartoon made me happy again and now I can appreciate the sunshine and the leaves and shit.

Flaming Carrot Comics #2 (or #34 if you're old-school like that)

In the back pages of this issue (and last issue for that matter), there’s quite a welcome sight: a listing of available back issues directly from writer/artist Bob Burden. Not everything is still around; the first two “Flaming Carrot Comics” trades are long gone, and issue #32 (the Reid Fleming crossover) appears to be MIA, but that still leaves you with issues #12-24 in collected form and #25-31 bagged into a ‘Slam Pack’. That’s a lot of Carrot history available from his creator. There’s other stuff: an action figure, a resin stature, the color “Mysterymen Comics” miniseries, and even your very own copy of “Flaming Carrot” #1, oversized and self-published, from 1981, now only $75. And yet, this is only part of Carrot history. His true first appearance was in the ultra-rare “Visions” #1 from 1979. His true ongoing series wouldn’t start until 1983, with a new issue #1, released by Aardvark-Vanaheim, back when they published books other then “Cerebus”. It’s fascinating to think that Carrot has been around almost as long as Cerebus. It’s also fascinating that he’s only seen thirty-four issues (plus the stray annual and book of prose stories) released in the past two decades and change.

But now Carrot is back on schedule, and one can’t help but be overwhelmed by the sense of history about the affair, particularly because the book seems to be uniquely unstuck in time. “Flaming Carrot Comics” already seemed like a throwback book in the early 90’s, which was where production seriously began to stall; in 2005, the haphazard b&w graphics and stream-of-consciousness semi-parody genre plotting still appears to be hailing from those indy boom years of the 80’s. But looking beyond surface elements you realize that Carrot was unique even in its salad days, and the book’s ambling storytelling and sweetly naughty desire to tweak social pieties remains unlike anything else on the stands. Carrot is simply Carrot, today and yesterday.

This issue is a continuation of the last, and I have to admit I wasn’t entirely sure that Burden was being serious when he mentioned that there was more to come, since the plot had largely seemed to wrap. But no, Carrot is still in danger! He needs to sort out a love triangle (?) between himself, a glamorous investigative reporter, and a famous two-headed actress who specializes in Shakespeare (as does Carrot; and no, there wasn’t really a time-travel story in issue #30, I went and checked). Carrot also battles vicious Soccer Moms with his baloney gun, and learns the forbidden secret of those pygmies from last issue. Plus, Oscar-winning filmmaker Michael Moore disguises himself as a playful dog to get some hot footage of Carrot, but finds himself locked in mortal combat with a rock-and-roll zombie. Believe it or not, all of this is resolved in surprisingly coherent fashion by issue’s end, through the unique logic of Carrot’s world.

It’s nothing resembling cutting-edge. As other commentators have noted the book’s satirical concerns are just a few steps behind the zeitgeist, but the book’s unique execution makes up for this in a large way. Michael Moore jokes are getting a mite dusty, yes, but Michael Moore disguised as a dog musing “Mmmmm. She’s pretty hot,” while trailing a young lady? I had a laugh at that. The art remains sketchy and lumpish, but at this point in Carrot history a sudden change in style would probably kill the mood; Burden’s drawings are vital to Carrot’s sense of place, of environment. “Mysterymen Comics” always felt like a different universe to me, and that’s doubtlessly due to Burden’s work being relegated to the script. We need to see his world through his eyes, for the full impact to arrive.

So it’s good to see things back on track. Burden even tosses in a joke at the very end of this issue that references a sneak preview he included in “Flaming Carrot Comics Annual” #1, from way back in 1997. That same book featured an introduction to Dynamite Girl, who’s finally making her debut in the next issue of this book. After that, an all-fumetti issue, and finally - the Secret Origin of Carrot! There’s previews of coming attractions on the back cover. Some of them date from 2003. Who knows when they’ll show on the extended Carrot timeline? At least we know Carrot himself will be popping up regularly for a while. Check out Burden’s website. He says there’ll be deleted scenes from this issue up there. They’re not there now, but soon.

*Ahh! Quickly.

Adam Strange #7 (of 8)

Luckily, this is the strongest issue in quite a while, with some serious plot movement and discussion of the underlying mystery and info on the big villain. Of course, it’s really starting to feel like the only reason it took seven issues to get this far is to parade every outer space character DC could dust off across the stage, the mystery is pretty much what Adam figured it out to be around issue #4 or so, and the villain turns out to be (apparently) some old cosmic DCU baddie from days of yore who’s… well, basically it’s Galactus. From what I’ve seen here. It did provide room for a gratuitous Blue Beetle cameo, though.

But all of that is tossed aside for ridiculously happy scenes of raw sentimentality, spittingly vile villains, ludicrous science ‘explanations’, and bold fleets of space soldiers pouring out to engage the enemy, all under Pascal Ferry’s mighty pen and Dave McCaig’s colors (which have occasionally lapsed into mere dimness in certain issues, but remain sufficiently evocative and rich here). It’s in these sequences (and there’s enough of them in this issue) where the book once again becomes the cheeseball straight-shooting pulp adventure that it’s occasionally been, rather than the less effective of DC’s two current revivals of scores of half-forgotten characters, which it’s been acting as for the past few installments. The former uniform fits it better.