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The Adventures of Barry Ween, Boy Genius

Since I haven't praised Oni Press enough lately, I figured I'd dig through my shelves and re-introduce myself to the funniest comic book ever produced. And luckily, you readers get to feel the funny, too.

Judd Winick is one of the best writers in comic books today. He turned Exiles, a book about alternate-reality-hopping heroes, into one of Marvel's few gems, brought Green Lantern more characterization than he's seen since the Green Lantern/Green Arrow days, and is about to jump ship to not one new title, but two (Outsiders and, oddly enough, Green Arrow).

Oh yeah, and there's that nomination for a Pulitzer Prize for Pedro & Me, but who cares about that really? Not like it's an Eisner Award (which I'm pretty sure he's won).

Is he an overachiever? Yes. Yes, he is. But he's the kind that can pull off good comics every time.

Anyhoo, the first time I ran across Winick was in a small collection from Oni, The Adventures of Barry Ween, Boy Genius. Barry is a ten year old super genius, and by super genius, I don't mean some sissy kid who can turn a regular go-kart into a "hi tech" go-kart by strapping a jet engine to it. Barry has an I.Q. of about 350. His go-kart would fly around the world in two minutes and then make a quick stop to pick up your laundry.

Barry spends a lot of his time experimenting and theorizing, but spends a lot more of his time keeping his best friend Jeremy Ramirez from screwing with his experiments (usually to little avail).

And perhaps the best part of it, they both swear like ornery truck drivers recently released from San Quentin. This book is as foul-mouthed as humanly possible, and Winick uses all the swears to make the already funny situations of turning your father into a Cro-Magnum love machine, covering up failed experiments with the trendy use of a flamethrower, and temporarily blinding the kid who makes fun of your grade-school crush, gust-bustingly better.

Barry drops some of the best one-liners known to comics, and Jeremy doesn't do too badly himself. One of my favorites:

Barry's Mom: "Barry! What are you doing in there?"
Barry trying to desperately dissolve and cram an octopus down the toilet: "Masturbating! Go away!"

Ahhh. True potty humor.

And while the humor is what shines in the book, Winick adds in plenty of action (Austrian art thieves with guns, rampaging dinosaurs, and vaginally shaped tears in the fabric of space-time) that makes the book read quickly, which makes the jokes appear rapid fire. Who knew you could time a joke so well in a panel (other than Jeff Smith)?

Winick also has a great duo in Jeremy and Barry. Jeremy's foul mouth, obsession with all things booby and crotchy, and his general naiveté of the more intricate realities of the world make him a great character to bounce off of Barry's cynical, straight man jokes.

Despite all the pre-adolescent swearing, both the characters are believable ten year olds. They take weird happenings at face value and comment on them the way a ten year old would: by making fun of it (in response to the aforementioned space-time rip, Jeremy calls it "a big glowing vagina." And it really is).

Winick's personal art style works spectacularly with the book, probably because he writes the damn thing. It's cartoonish, but it's at a level of cartoonish that I can't really compare to anyone else. Winick really has a unique style that you have to experience through this book or Pedro & Me to truly understand how good it is. Or you could pick up one of the other three Barry Ween trades in publication.

It's black and white, but I find far too many good comics are published black and white for it to be a coincidence, so don't be discouraged. And it's a thin trade, equivalent to only the first three issues of the series.

But want to know what makes up for it? It'll set you back a whopping $8.95. What's almost as good as Free Comic Book Day? Cheap Good Comic Book Day, and that day comes 365 times a year when it comes to Barry Ween.

The Adventures of Barry Ween, Boy Genius

Robert Sparling

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