by Benjamin Marra
Traditional Comics, 2011
Of all the comic covers I’ve seen featuring superheroes pummeling Nazis, this one takes the cake. And if you can’t handle the cover, then I should point out now that you will find even everything in this review offensive.
I haven’t read GRP #1, but that probably doesn’t matter (it’s possible the story is not a continuation anyway). Here’s what you need to know: the comic opens with the GRP under siege by cops (who’ve surrounded the wrong building). GRP pulls out a stinger missile launcher and blows them the fuck up. GRP then goes to bust up the neo-Nazi/KKK rally featured on the cover. By bust up I mean a bunch of Nazis get shot in a row behind each other with a shotgun, lined up and mowed down with automatics, etc. (They don’t seem to make any attempt to defend themselves — or perhaps they can’t against the might of GRP.) Then GRP have sex with the Neo-Nazi girlfriends who were there before they get taken away to become sex slaves in Chechnya. Meanwhile, the mayor is seeking revenge against GRP for gangbanging his wife, distributing a video of it, and humiliating him. He hires a homeless man named Harold Smithsonian — a George Clinton look-a-like — formerly of the band Funk Congress International, but who is penniless because GRP made all the money sampling his music (?). Clinton proposes letting his ex-band mate Snoozy Koblins — also a CIA assassin — out of jail (where he still dresses in full stage regalia) to kill GRP. (I’m cracking up as I type all this). GRP go to a record company party where they have sex with the white wives of all the execs in straight-up pornographic sex scenes. One woman snorts a line of cocaine off the erection of one of the band. Etc.
I probably shouldn’t have called this a superhero comic before, but it is a power fantasy. I remember when I was first exposed to NWA in the very early 90s and what a new, vicarious thrill it was listening to those lyrics about high-powered machineguns, invincibility, sex as available as leaves on trees, and power. GRP takes those lyrics literally, as if NWA were actually going around doing all those things they sang about, to side-splitting effect. When leaving the KKK rally, the GRP randomly toss some grenades at the motorbikes they are about to steal so they can ride wheelie away with explosions behind them. It’s supposed to be set in 1991, but the whole thing has more of a budget ’80s action movie feel when they tried to make up for the lack of money with tough-as-nails heroes and inventive ways killing characters dynamically. I should also add that — weirdly — if anything, the ubiquitous omnipotence and irrationally swooning women reminded me constantly of ACG’s series Herbie.
I guess you could say, Marra’s shortcoming is his art — it’s his equivalent of that budget restraint. His draughtsmanship leaves something to be desired, and brings up uncomfortable associations with the B&W boom and bust of the ’80s (Marra prints on newsprint too), but his art is actually very well composed, there is no neglect of detail, and his storytelling is perfectly paced an structured. He really knows what he’s doing and what he has to do to tell the story — he will fearlessly try to draw anything from any angle to get where he needs to be. It might even be possible that if the art were “better” it would distract from all the things that make the comic such an outrageous good time.
I can understand the temptation some people have to call the book racist (especially since Marra is white). I don’t want to label them reactionary, but I will say that to call the book racist is to be completely blind to the fact that it’s a comedy. However, if I were a racist white dude, I would be seriously pissed off for being made to look like such an idiot (the cops call GRP “black negroes”).
For me, the myth of NWA kind of died when Eazy-E died of AIDS-related illness (if learning about his seven kids didn’t kind of kill it for me before that). GRP has filled that void. Now Marra needs to do a comic about Ronnie James Dio.
Kumar Sivasubramanian is the writer of Weird Crime Theater.