Technofreak (#1 – 4) – John Charles, Barry May

3 out of 5

While I don’t have firsthand experience making a comic book, I’m sure it’s difficult, or at the very least, time consuming. Still, I have mixed feelings when the creators of a comic take a seeming backseat on it. Not that plotting (as opposed to scripting) is wholly a backseat, but still, it feels weird: has the creator run out of ideas? Or passion for their creation? Perhaps it’s more practical than all that, and so-and-so realized they simply weren’t the best writer. Even that feels suggestive, though, of a book that will likely be changing gears. 

I followed colorist John from 2000 AD to his creator-owned comic with Barry May, Technofreak, and yes, the above rant is owing to that – that I had my eye on a particular creator. John was coloring as well (with some assists), but he’d created the Technofreak character, and was cowriting, and I was eager to see what that equaled. 

With Tom Newell on art, the first (independently published, then picked up by American Mythology Productions), had a tough time juggling tone of both art and story between grindhouse camp and goody hijinx (tagline: “It ain’t Marvel and it aint P.C.,” …ugh), but there was also promise: John had sat with the character so long that the overall premise – John Sherlock is a technofreak: a cybernetically enhanced individual with all the internet in his head – rolls out with amusing “been there, done that” drollness, and there’s a legitimately great gag with a robotic cat, Maurice, who narrates directly to the reader… except everyone can hear him, telling him to quit it. So there’s a nice, strong vein of UK humor here. 

But over four issues, the comic feels, as mentioned, stuck between being maybe not serious, but something adjacent to that, and a teenaged-geared Beano, with one-page gags from guest artists. And we see John Charles step back from writing to plotting, and by issue four, even May has gone to plotting, making way for new writer Jack McCabe. 

I do think most of this is in service to streamlining things, as the pacing becomes less hodgepodge, finding a good balane of cheek and action (though there’s still an obnoxious, dated dollop of “it ain’t p.c.”ness around), and Newell starts to adopt a much more comedic, expressive style, which supports the writing changes. 

So where does that leave us? With a good start. It’s a fitful introduction, juggled between several hands and approaches, but there’s enough promise to make “one more issue” worth it, and by issue four, it feels like the book knows what it wants to be, even if that’s maybe different from where it started.