Fall in, soldiers, says Tony Fyler.
The penguins were, let’s face it, the funniest thing in Madagascar, the Dreamworks movie. Some would say they made the whole thing worthwhile. So it’s fitting that the flightless commandos have their own comic-book, courtesy of Titan Comics.
In issue #4, the crack troop decide to break into the Tower of London, during what, as it turns out, is a spate of high-value art pilfers.
The reason they do that is dubious in the extreme, even given their on-screen characters. There’s also a sense of lacking the inventiveness of the on-screen versions of their exploits here – one trick in particular is used time and time and then, just for good measure, it’s used time again, to explain almost every plot-twist and solve most of the problems, which even for a younger audience is likely to become tiresomely predictable by repetition.
That said, there are authentic voices here for Skipper, Private, Rico and Kowalski, except possibly in one instance where the American-accented birds use the word ‘mate’ to describe one of their own. There’s also a delicious sense of silliness in the storytelling which delivers a kind of ‘Dangermouse/Pinky and the Brain spirit’ of whacky animal-centred lunacy throughout the adventure, written by Cavan Scott (soon to be writing Titan comic-book stories for the relatively taciturn Ninth Doctor). The whole thing is massively free of grander scale consequences and is purely a fun romp through a couple of major British institutions as the penguins fail to take selfies with the crown jewels, lose a member of the team, bump into Big Ben, pose as a priceless piece of art, find a member of the team again, get heartily sick of the smell of sardines, foil a major art heist, deliver a couple of high quality riffs on movies like Ocean’s Eleven and Gambit, technically become domestic terrorists and give a nod either to Goldfinger or to Oscar season, depending on how seriously you’re taking things.
While the writing is a yin/yang affair, some great overcomplicated malarkey being undermined by that repeated single trick (can you have one-trick penguins?) – which also fails somewhat because the trick itself is a gross-out sight gag which doesn’t transfer particularly well to two dimensions – the artwork by Lucas Ferreyra is excellent, giving an almost faithful rendering of the animated commandos in practically every panel in which they feature. And there’s good work too from letterer Jim Campbell – more important than you might think when you have four characters, all of whom are black and white, and all of whom speak rapidly, in cut-and-thrust interrupting dialogue – the subtle shading of lettering boxes creating a straightforward ‘accent’ indicator, so you can follow the dialogue correctly and at the speed at which it’s intended to be delivered.
Bottom line, this is a fun one, aimed at a younger market, and the story takes five minutes to read, because the pacing with which it’s told is accurately recreated from the movie exploits of the black-and-white commando squad. The Penguins of Madagascar are pretty much Top Cat for the post-Ocean’s Eleven youngster, and here, in the absence of further animated adventures for the guys, you get your moneysworth of almost – if not quite – authentic wing-flapping fun.
Penguins Of Madagascar #4 is out now.
To find your local comic store visit: http://www.comicshoplocator.com/
Tony Fyler lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly
nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who,
Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the
70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By
runs an editing house, largely as an
excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book.
With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at FylerWrites.co.uk