Minions of the Happy Aisles

What happens when the staff of a discount hardware store start a kidnapping spree? Something strange is afoot in this comedy adventure

Humour isn’t that well catered for in graphic novels. In a medium where the most obvious route to commercial success is via po-faced superheroes wrestling with dark deeds, there’s occasional pastiche but little by way of proper written-as-comedy fiction.

Zac Hudson and Mike Murphy aim to change this with Minions of the Happy Aisles, a four-part ‘humorous adventure’ graphic novel to be published over the next four years. This first volume skips from the discovery of ancient, possibly alien artefacts, to the kidnap of a rock star. Both appear to involve workers from a popular American discount hardware store. But to what end? Why would the cheery staff of a retail chain pick up tools and kidnap people?

This is the question that will be answered over the course of the four volumes. If you stick around for long enough to find out.

The main problem is that the standard just isn’t that high. For starters, the art isn’t up to scratch. It’s not terrible and Murphy clearly shows some promise – he can draw a figure reasonably well, but has a sketchy, light-handed feel that comes across as unfinished. The writing doesn’t live up to its promise either. The plot doesn’t feel like it’s been honed or particularly well edited: it’s got a first-draft feel to it. There’s something here that could work but perhaps it needs rearranging or somehow refining.

It also isn’t that funny, at least not yet. The premise raises a mild smile, and some of the characters have promise, but there’s nothing here that made this reviewer laugh out loud. Perhaps my sense of humour is incompatible but it’s a disappointment to embark on a book with humour in mind, only to find out that it’s not funny.

The final issue is that there isn’t quite enough connection between the start of the book (the discovery of the artefact) and the main bulk of it (the kidnap). While there is clearly a mystery on slow reveal here, and there’s nothing wrong with that, there are too few connections to make this first volume hold together. Characters and organisations are introduced who play no part in the plot development, so setting these up might have been better left until later.

Things may pick up as the books continue but there isn’t a lot here persuade you to purchase, or to wait with anticipation, for a second volume.

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