Monday, October 19, 2009

Review: Eben07: Operation Mongoose

Gentlemen, behold! Following up from yesterday's post, it is time for the promised review of:

The first thing to note is that this chapter is a quick read, at a brief fifteen or so pages. However, it's not necessarily the best intro to the comic--for starters, its focus is not the present-day protagonist Agent Eben07, but rather his grandfather Abel, founder of the ICA. The storyline, told in flashback-style black-and-white rather than the brighter colors of Agent Eben07's contemporary adventures, covers Abel's assignment during the 1970's to assassinate Fidel Castro.

Truth be told, I'm not sure what to make of it.

It's not the art--I've always been impressed by Eben07's artwork, and although it loses a little without color, it's still a strong point. And the story succeeds at its goal of placing the ICA and its founder into American History. What it comes down to is the tone.

There were spots I found funny. Abel's present attempt on Castro's life is interspersed with his reflections on his mission, accompanied by snapshots of past attempts, which are absolutely ludicrous. Plus, the seriousness of Abel's internal monologue and the whole "men in suits" vibe are juxtaposed with such images as Abel in a dress. But that's the thing: the seriousness. Throughout the storyline, there are some rather gravitous musings on the nature of choice and fate in a political context, and Abel, it appears, is intended to be taken as a sympathetic victim of greater machinations, a pawn trying to maintain some semblance of human dignity.

There are numerous moments of humor in the fifteen-page story, but it ends on a deadly serious note. If it's trying for that whole-spectrum-of-human-emotion thing that I discussed earlier with Marooned and Superfogeys, I can't say it succeeds as well.

In all honesty, I've never been sure entirely what to make of Eben07. There's no denying that it's a well-executed comic, but the whole thing is so odd that at times I wonder about its accessibility. The janitor/secret-agent juxtaposition at the core of the thing has a lot of potential, but there's some inscrutable part of it that seems to be taking the whole endeavor too seriously--or perhaps taking it seriously in the wrong way. It's not mine to say that a secret-agent-janitor story can't have its serious moments.

But neither is it mine to say exactly how you can take a secret-agent-janitor story seriously. Such answers are decidedly beyond me.

To conclude, despite everything it does right, Operation Mongoose may not be the best introduction to the comic. Fortunately, though, the latest version of the site includes a page for new readers, and if the comic has piqued your interest, that may be the best place to start.

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