The Balls Brothers (pkgd. w/ JD Meg #302) – John Wagner

3 out of 5 

I’ll be honest: this doesn’t work. But you want it to work so badly, and you can kind of see all the individual gears working – just the put-together machine is a bit of a junker – so you affectionately reach out to embrace the hulking, farting, pooping mess that is Balls Brothers, hoping it will get its act together, but it never does. 

Still – that hope is a powerful thing. You read on. 

The Balls Brothers – Eggy and Rocky – are two science-engineered, nigh-impervious dullards, who take leave of the hospital in which they were raised in order to be heroes amidst “The Super 7,” giving the 7’s Superman-proxy leader much grief in the first series collected here, then facing off against an amusingly derived friend / foe in the second series. 

We can surmise from some interviews that John Wagner isn’t necessarily a full scripter: that he leaves a lot of art direction to the artist. I would say that works against him when paired with certain artists, or perhaps he just wasn’t suited to Kev Walker’s – at the time – rather extreme, overblown style, or Walker just ran with the script on his own. Whatever the case, the art is both amazing and completely ineffective at the same time, as Kev jams tons of animated detail into every panel, and his character designs are wonderfully expressive, but that detail does not work with John’s humor (which is generally dry). And because all of the characters are very visually loud, the funny dialogue gets lost in the mix, as well as a fourth wall-breaking narrative device. 

Some of the “noise” smooths out after a couple progs, but never to a point of actually being smooth; similarly, the capes and cowls parodying keeps escalating amusingly – John does maintain a plot, knocking round ‘neath the banter and hijinx, but the story never exactly lands that sweet spot between juvenilia and jokes. 

So it doesn’t work! And yet I love looking at this thing! It is such a weird misfire of so much talent that it keeps its head above water, albeit because it’s begging for attention.