We tend not to focus on comic reviews here at Comic POW! We like to take a look at how books or story arcs fit into the greater medium and society. But every once in a while we do take a look at an individual issue and I think Code Monkey Save World presents a great reason to do so. Code Monkey Save World is a mini-series based on a universe derived from the songs of Jonathan Coulton. If you’re not into hyper indie nerd rock, you may still have come across Coulton’s work if you played Valve’s Portal and Portal 2 as Coulton wrote the songs that play over the credits of those games. Jonathan Coulton is quite the world builder; while most pop and rock songs revolve around love between a couple of everyday Joes and Janes, Coulton imagines a romance between an evil mastermind and a woman he’s captured or a literal code monkey and office secretary. Greg Pak has combined all these elements into one universe and the result is something that would probably make a pretty awesome Point and Click Adventure game. (I kept thinking of Sam and Max as I read this first issue) If you’re willing to suspend your disbelief (which, to varying degrees is required of every comic reader), I believe this series can be enjoyable by anyone, whether or not they are a fan of Coulton’s songs. The first page is a great example of this:
If you don’t know Jonathan Coulton’s music, you don’t notice the reference to his song Good Morning Tuscon, but it’s pretty easy to understand the barrista’s “racism” against Charles. Another quick example:
You might not get the reference to Re: Your Brains, but I think the Office Space-like clueless and empathy-lacking boss is something many of us have dealt with. I think this is a great time to mention that I think Takeshi Miyazawa’s art work is pretty darned great! It appears to be a manga-infused Western style that seems to strike the right balance between too cartoony and too serious. We’re talking about a world that has a talking monkey programmer, but it’s not a Looney Tunes world. I think he does a fine job. Also, we (in the comics press) sometimes forget the other part of the art team that can really make a huge difference in the feel of the story: the colorist. Jessica Kholine’s colors work perfectly in this story. Contrasting the two images above shows how she does something we don’t see quite often enough – color temperature. It’s pretty clear from the first image that it’s early in the morning and the second image has a bit of a green cast to it that pretty clearly communicates the fluorescent lighting of the cubicle office.
So what’s the actual story here? Because I have early access to this issue due to being a backer for its Kickstarter project, I’m going to be a lot more careful about spoilers since it won’t even be out until 16 Oct for the regular public. Essentially, Charles, the titular code monkey, works for SCM Industries and is talking with his crush, the office secretary, when she is kidnapped by a giant robot. (The robots also take a bunch of his coworkers) He vows to get her back somehow which leads to his teaming up with the owner/CEO of SCM Industries, The Skullcrusher – the mad scientist from Skullcrusher Mountain. At this point the comic becomes a buddy picture as they work together to get to the location of the kidnapped coworkers. The comic hints at why The Skullcrusher would work with Charles although it doesn’t fully reveal his motivations. If you’re worried, troubled, or just annoyed at the save the princess aspect of the plot, there are also hints that this world is full of some pretty resourceful women who can take care of themselves. At this point I wouldn’t be completely surprised if the secretary is able to save herself or ends up even saving the guys. The issue also ends with a page that’s either a throwaway reference to some more Coulton songs or hints that the plot’s about to take a hard right turn.
On a meta level, what I love about this comic is that it has proven to be yet another way to produce an independent comic. I’m sure someone of Greg Pak’s stature could go to Image Comics to make pretty much any comic he wants, but the Kickstarter model is a great way to demonstrate a proven fan base for a comic series and I hope it continues to lead to even more creative comics being published. The other writers at Comic POW! and I are certainly fans of traditional super hero comics, but it’s true that we sometimes tire of the repetitiveness of it all.
If you’d like a fun little spin on the buddy roadtrip/save the princess genre with some really great art, I think you should definitely check out Code Monkey Save World when it goes on sale 16 Oct. It is, fittingly, published by Monkey Brain Comics on Comixology.