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Lobo Unbound #1
writer: Keith Giffen
artist: Alex Horley

Often misinterpreted, originally ultra-violent, in recent years the savagely hilarious bounty hunter Lobo has become watered down by the needs of the greater DC Universe. Maybe it was the appearance on Superman: The Animated Series. Maybe it was marketing's decision to release him as a plush toy.

Or maybe the thing that drew readers to him in the first place made him completely unfit for the DC Universe. As brilliant as they often are, Keith Giffen creations usually fall into that category. Anybody out there for The Heckler?

But still (at least until recently), DC fans demanded that everything popular somehow fit together. The Main Man had to co-exist with Superman.

Occasionally it worked, such as when Lobo crossed paths with The Demon, but it was also clear that the Lobo appearing in L.E.G.I.O.N. (and then R.E.B.E.L.S.) looked less and less like the guy who took down Santa Claus.

The last straw in the destruction of Lobo came with his reversion to teendom and subsequent teaming with Young Justice. From a storytelling perspective, it made a strange kind of sense: bored with being the toughest tough guy in the universe, the only way to keep from going insane was to have to earn his reputation all over again. On the surface, it seemed clever, but though Teen Lobo made the character safe for kids, this incarnation pretty much took away the original's balls.

Well, they're back, along with Lobo's creator.

Often when a cult creator returns to a character after a long absence, the actual work can't live up to the fan anticipation. Marvel's recent luring of Steve Gerber to Howard The Duck comes to mind as a book and attitude that was once perfect for its time that couldn't recapture the magic. Happily, Giffen still has the sick, sick magic that made his name in the second place. (The first place would be his artwork on Legion of Super-Heroes in the early '80's.)

Lobo Unbound is twisted. It's wrong. And you've got to get it.

Since Teen Lobo is nowhere to be found in the current Graduation Day mini-series, I guess it's safe to assume he's been kicked out of the DC Universe for a while. That leaves the field clear for the true Main Man to return to fragging.

The book opens with a brief reintroduction of Lobo's past, done Dr. Seuss style. As often happens with Seuss pastiches (and they happen waaay too often), it's a mixed bag. The joke goes on too long, and the rhymes barely work. If Lobo were here, he'd frag me for being so damned effete. And for using the word "effete." I accept the risk.

Soon enough, we get to the action, as Lobo takes on galactic film mogul Huevos Gigantes, whose name describes his attributes, and yes, after Giffen has toiled on the fringes of the film industry for a few years, perfectly fits what he does for a living.

And that's just in the first half of the book. Later, to describe the Blue Ointment Boys who send Lobo on his next mission would be to ruin one of the sickest jokes Giffen has come up with.

Like Giffen, Lobo has returned to his roots. Yes, he's the toughest bastich in the universe, but he lives in a dingy, seedy little apartment. By choice. He hangs with a rough crowd because that's the only thing that gives him anything close to joy, short of mass destruction. Maybe we'll see his space dolphins again, but I doubt it. They don't fit.

Though Lobo has often been drawn by artists with a flair for the grotesquely ridiculous, such as Simon Bisley, Giffen may have finally been paired with the perfect artist for his sensibilities. Alex Horley has a dark painted style that recalls Bisley and Dan Brererton, but channels Harvey Kurtzman. It can be no accident that Mr. Gigante's secretary looks like Little Annie Fannie. Many panels teem with throwaway visual gags just like the best of that classic strip.

What Giffen created, and later hands forgot, is a satire. And so it's only appropriate that this book should pay homage to one of the masters of comic book satire.

Lobo doesn't have an origin rooted in sadness like The Punisher. Even though Frank Castle can be used for black humor (and often is, brilliantly, by Garth Ennis), he still has an air of realism. And a code of vengeance that we can almost understand.

But Lobo - he's just himself. Capable of anything, loving violence for no other reason than that's what he is.

And if having Giffen back on the character isn't enough, it gets better: issue number 4 of this series brings back the character most overdue for a respectful revival: Ambush Bug.

Gang, if that doesn't get you to buy this mini-series, you're beyond hope.

Rating: (because of that Dr. Seuss intro)

Derek McCaw

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