Publisher: Lion Forge (Roar Comics imprint)
Writer(s): Brad McGinty, Scarecrowoven & Dan Zettwoch
Artist(s): Brian Smith, Scarecrowoven & Dan Zettwoch
Release Date: 20th April, 2016
So, who remembers Madballs?
You know, the weird, gross-looking rubber balls that were all over the place in the mid 80s? We weren’t ever really sure what the point of them was, but dammit if they didn’t look kinda cool to our younger selves.
Freaky fun for everyone?
Maybe this will jog your memory…
Well, regardless of whether you remember them fondly (or indeed at all), Madballs are being brought back into the mix courtesy of Roar Comics – an imprint of Lion Forge – as part of a brand new comicbook series. While the franchise did have a short-lived Marvel comic run back in the late 80s, as well as a poorly-received video game from Ocean Software, there really didn’t ever seem to be much of a coherent storyline linking the different balls together, other than their shared strangeness (and, of course, madness).
This first issue features a main story from writer Brad McGinty and artist Brian Smith, as well as two shorter backup strips. The primary story is based around the “Bizarro Bowl”, a sort of mad equivalent of the Super Bowl where teams of Madballs compete in a weird mash-up of American Football, Basketball and… Mouse Trap, I guess? To McGinty’s eternal credit, he has at least tried to inject some different personalities into the different balls based on their looks, such as the dumb, “Hulk Smash” style Horn Head and the weirdly competitive Oculus Orbus.
As a side note, he also deserves additional credit for casting Fist Face as one of the game’s commentary team, what with him being entirely mute due to being, well, a giant fist clutching an eyeball.
The story essentially consists of a stream of childish puns and physical humour as the balls bounce themselves around trying to do whatever it is they need to do in order to win the game (it’s never really explained). At this point, it’s also worth noting that its difficult to figure out exactly who the target audience for this series is. The childish gross-out comedy will appeal to a very young demographic, but is unlikely to appeal to older readers drawn in by the vague nostalgia of the property. Visually, Smith does a solid job of keeping things bright, colourful and suitably cartoony – as well as throwing in some amusing moments like Oculus Orbus swallowing the entire other team or Wolf Breath’s “Broccoli Breath Boost” – but aside from that, there’s nothing to really get too excited about here.
The backup strips don’t really add much to the proceedings, although Scarecrowoven’s “Night of the Purple Putty Cat” does feature some truly impressive artwork in a pleasing purple hue as a monster made up of Madballs invades the Earth. The other strip, “Ye Olde-Tymer’s Game” from Dan Zettwoch sees our heroes (villains? I dunno) being zapped into an alternate reality where they meet their opposite selves, the “Orbs of Civility”, and features an impressively rough-round-the-edges ‘zine style in both its artwork and lettering. Unfortunately, neither of them have the page count to feel like more than disposable filler, even if the latter strip probably has a stronger premise than the dazzlingly vague “Bizarro Bowl” main story.
Ultimately then, while some of of the backup material is entertaining enough, the lingering question about this release is similar to the main question surrounding its freaky rubber ball inspiration — what’s the actual point?
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