Review: Munchkin #7

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Writers: Tom SIDDELL, Derek FRIDOLFS

Artists: Mike LUCKAS, Fred STRESING

Colourist: Katy FARINA  

Munchkin #7 continues the line of tie-in comics to the popular card game Munchkin in which groups of friends must battle against various monsters and one another as they try grab as much loot as possible. With each card laced with some ironic or pithy pastiche of a common fantasy trope Munchkin has -despite many of its critics vocal protests- managed to become a fairly popular game. As is so often the case with popularity comes tie in merchandise trying to cash in while they can, next on the list for the Munchkin machine is comics it seems as the series enters it’s 7th issue.

Munchkin #7 opens with a story written by Tom Siddell (Gunnerkrigg Court) and illustrated by Mike Luckas. This tale is a combination of three short film spoofs ripping on popular culture tied together loosely by two characters watching and commenting on them. As with in any medium a story that relies heavily on pop culture as a base runs the risk of becoming outdated as trends die out and evolve. It is a shame then that this section of Munchkin #7 has managed to pick two topics that have been done to death and one that is hardly culturally relevant any more. The first genre to be given the superficial parody treatment is horror, specifically vampire films. As a house on “Spooky Vampire Hill” is sold to a new resident the locals begin to discuss the new occupant. If the “hilarious” joke of a vampire moving into the creepy house on “Vampire Hill” is not your cup of tea then skip this one (and potentially this whole comic). Even if this type of joke is your cup of tea by the time it is repeated in a different guise by every character and on near enough every single panel you will wish that you had also chosen to skip it.

With such a tepid opening story readers would be forgiven for hoping that Munchkin #7 could only improve. The second vignette chooses to drag two jokes out over the story rather than just repeating them through different character. A story that is essentially a mash up of the waking of one of Lovecraft’s Ancient Ones and Titanic seems to use the latter as an excuse to shoehorn pop culture fan favourite Cthulhu into this story that is ostensibly about films. As Munchkin: The Card Game was slightly ahead of the trend of putting the tentacled Eldritch horror on various types of merchandise it is not too much of a surprise that they are keen to fill the pages of their comic with It. Unfortunately due to Cthulhu’s lack of silver screen appearances this all feels very out of place in this story that quickly wraps up with a tired Titanic joke that has been made a thousand times before.

With the third “film” Siddell seems to quickly tire of the idea of lambasting worn out tropes and instead opts to throw a curveball, turning what starts as a simple western into a zany dance film. The word zany is used here to try impress how “totes random” and “kooky” we are clearly meant to find this change of pace. In case the reader is still unaware of what we are laughing at in any of these stories we have the two characters watching the film bookmarking each section by clumsily beating us round the head with even more simplified versions of the jokes we have just read.

A story that is heavily based on a current trend in pop culture can still thrive if the writing and jokes are solid. Unfortunately here this is not the case. Mocking the flimsy, two dimensional characters found in old horror films or writing Cthulhu a cutesy, tragically misunderstood man-child are so far from groundbreaking or original that you end up hoping there is some larger joke to pay off down the line. There is not.

The second tale in Munchkin #7 -written by Derek Fridolfs (Batman: Arkham Unhinged) and illustrated by Fred Stresing– takes a different tone from overtly mocking worn out pop culture tropes and instead focuses on the adventuring side of the game. Much like the stories we have seen in previous issues of Munchkin story tries to wholeheartedly embody the game’s general theme of betraying your own friends to get the loot for yourself. So then for anyone who has read an issue of Munchkin  before -or has even just played the game once or twice- this is not a new concept. Drawing on the idea that anything and everything could be behind a dungeon door in this universe we are subjected to a story that involves far too many rubber ducks to be considered funny. Coupled with a played out gag of one member of the band of adventurers continually stabbing the others in the back this story does not manage to lift Munchkin #7 to great heights but instead drags it along at the pace the previous tale set.

The art in both stories of Munchkin #7 fits the tone of each story well. Luckas’ cartoon style fits what is meant to be the lighthearted brevity of the story. With a style that feels very close to many of Cartoon Network’s current hot properties the illustrations lend more humour to the jokes than they really deserve. Assisted by a very light and bright palette from colourist Katy Farina their combined work help to raise the quality of their story. The very same can be said for the work of illustrator/colourist Stresing in the second of the two stories. While Stresing’s style is still cartoony it feels much more in the camp of classic comic strips which again helps to keep this rather leaden story flow. In the colour department Stresing does a great job of adding a great deal of life into each minuscule detail and gives each panel a wonderfully vibrant effect. While the cartoon style of Munchkin #7 might not be to everyone’s taste few could argue that it fits the tone perfectly.

Munchkin #7 has a more fundamental problem than just bad writing, it is a comic that is based off a card game with no characters or real plot, only some silly jokes and a very simple “everyone vs everyone” premise. We see both of these played out individually in the two stories provided. The draw of Munchkin: The Card Game for some is the same tongue in cheek satire of many tropes and archetypes found in the fantasy genre. Given the standard playing sized cards used in Munchkin: The Card Game it is not too taxing to create a simple, vaguely humorous pun or pastiche of a commonly recognised trope. When these same styled jokes are forced to fill the pages of a comic they quickly become very stale. With such a limiting scope for writing it is no wonder that these otherwise very competent writers have produced stories that feel well beneath their talents.