You may not believe this, given my tendency for devouring all things nerdy, but back in the early 2000s, I hadn’t read a comic book at all. It was a college friend of mine that gave me my first taste of the wonderful world of sequential art, in the form of the Director’s Cut edition of Jhonen Vasquez’s incredibly dark and disturbingly funny Johnny The Homicidal Maniac. I fell instantly for the stylised, creepy aesthetic, and especially so with Vasquez’s insane sense of humour. When I discovered the animated series Invader Zim a few years later (sadly having missed it as it aired), I devoured it as quickly as humanly possible. Zim provided a less disturbing platform for Vasquez’s particular brand of lunatic-funny, and the characters absolutely shone. Zim, an alien of the planet Irk (sent by his leaders to Earth because he annoyed them, though he took it as being sent to scope out our planet in advance of a potential Irken takeover) was delightfully insane. His sidekick, GIR (a tiny, bonkers robot) was an instant favourite with fans, with his propensity for hilarious and nonsensical one-liners. Dib, Zim’s human arch nemesis, single-minded in his need to expose Zim for the alien invader he is, was the perfect yin to Zim’s yang. The show was different, bananas and brilliant and I hungered for more.
In recent years it’s been as though the comic book world has been reading my greedy nerd mind, delivering me such treasures as the newest TMNT run, Jem and the Holograms, and the return of Dirk Gently to the page (to name but three), so to say that the announcement that Oni Press would be bringing Invader Zim back to life had me excited is somewhat of an understatement. Luckily, they did not disappoint. The first issue of Invader Zim was an absolute treat for my very eager eyeballs, delivering the unique style and colour of the world of Zim just flawlessly. Following an opening recap (hilarious in its own right) the issue centres around Dib having become an obese mess after spending all his time staring at a video feed of Zim’s home. Clearly, Zim hasn’t been around for a while, and it’s taken it’s toll on the overly focussed Dib. It all feels so cosily familiar that it’s hard not to immediately get lost in it’s demented fun. With art from Aaron Alexovich, who helped design many of the beloved characters as well as working on the program as a storyboard artist, it has the look of the show right on point, with facial expressions suitably maniacal and ‘camera’ angles suitably dramatic. Invader Zim was well-known (and appreciated) for its inventive use of colour, the palette mostly being comprised of dark-ish purples, blues, pinks and blacks, and colourist Simon Trousellier does that distinct palette justice in this issue. Written by Jhonen Vasquez, it oozes with the weird and wonderful wit of the cartoon, and the familiarity of it all brings the memories and highly quotable lines just rushing to the front of your brain.
The one problem with this comic is that it highlights just how much the cartoon relied on it’s incredibly talented voice actors to really make the comedy truly hit home. For those that have seen the show, you’ll know what I mean when I say that the line delivery in Invader Zim was bizarre and fairly unnatural, but utterly perfect. Rosearik ‘Rikki’ Simons’ crazily playful performance as GIR was a joy to behold, and Zim’s unearthly habit of over-emphasising and shouting the odd word really hammered home his out-of-place-ness in a human classroom/living situation. Not one character was mis-cast, but unfortunately even the incredibly talented letterer on this book just cannot replicate the wonderfully weird way in which the majority of the characters communicated. Warren Wucinich makes a valiant effort to recapture the characters’ vocal flair, and to be honest I’m not sure there’s anything more he could have done, but it just isn’t the same. It’s an unfortunate result in the shift of medium from animation to comics, however I’m still incredibly happy to be getting new Invader Zim adventures in any form. It’s a cracking first issue (it helps that it can forgo all the usual set-up type narrative given that it follows directly on from the events of the cartoon), and I look forward to more madness from the mind of Mr. Vasquez. In short, it’s over-the-top, absurd, bonkers and magnificent.
Title: Invader Zim #1
Publisher: Oni Press
Reviewer: Stacey Taylor (@StacebobT)