Sunday, September 16, 2012

MISC. MANGA, *The Middleman

Despite having a live-action TV series on ABC Family back in 2008, The Middleman was originally a very popular underground comic series. The first two mini-series were collected into trade paperback, and the third volume was published directly as an original graphic novel. The comic was popular enough to garnish a full color graphic novel conclusion to the TV series which was cancelled one episode early. Written by screenwriter Javier Grillo-Marxuach, this comic is about a secret orginization that deals with all the exotic problems that the real world can't normal believe in, like alien invasions, mad scientists, and other supernatural threats. Sorta like Men In Black meets Ghostbusters meets X-Files. Although the black and white artwork by Les McClaine gives it a very manga look to it.

The series begins with struggling artist Wendy Watson part-timing in a lab which is attacked by some kind of tentacle monster. The beast is stopped by a strange man in an Eisenhower jacket, who ultimately frames Wendy as the cause of the mysterious accident. He then reveals himself to her as The Middleman, and explains that he uses their orginization(which is mainly staffed by him and a snarky old robot woman)exists for "fighting evil so you don't have to". Wendy is taken on as his sidekick and Middleman in training, and they begin to unravel this new case which involves a super-intelligent ape mafia and a maniacal geneticist.

The next volume has Wendy learning martial arts under the temperamental Sensei Ping, a fighting master who wears a lucha libre mask, and gets kidnapped by a cabal of Mexican wrestlers. The Middleman and Wendy manage to stop the evil luchadores, but Wendy starts to realize how being a Middleman is affecting her life. This volume also includes three short "Legends Of The Middleman" which shows some of the different Middlemen throughout the ages.

The third and last volume has the Middleman going up against his old sidekick, Middleboy, who was supposedly killed years ago similar to Bucky from Captain America. Middleboy emerges as the new Kanimang Kang, head of the sinister F.A.T.B.O.Y. group bent on conquering the world. Middleman defeats him, but is assassinated by him at the end, who makes his escape. Wendy grieves over the loss of her mentor, but the current "branch" of Middleman is replaced not by her, but by Wendy's long lost father. They conclude claiming that "The Middleman and Wendy will return", but so far no direct continuation to the comic has been made.

This series has been done as seperate graphic novels, and in a large collected edition. It's definately worth looking up with it's manga-influenced art style, and its completely off the wall writing make it something any comic book fan, otaku, or sci-fi geek will find totally satisfying.

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