The Holo. Brothers Book 1: Curse of the Bloated Toad TPB – Jim Rohn

4 out of 5

The Hologram Brothers – orphanage pals; mutants; and hooligans. With their mechanical bird assistant, T.K., the brothers kick off their hooliganism in ‘Curse of the Bloated Toad’ with a bit of theft: a jewel, from the cigar-chompin’, eye-patched, German-accented “Herr” Lippman, which made me chuckle.

And chuckling is a reliable baseline response during Jim Rohn’s mini sci-fi romp, initially serialized in 11 6-ish page entries in Threat! and then collected by Fantagraphics into a trade. But that’s not meant to be a minor compliment, necessarily: while Rohn’s work trawls through plenty of adventure stereotypes (a power hungry villain; the funny-banter filled scuffles), he packs a lot of fun and enjoyment into each installment – which add up into a very successful whole – making that chuckle a sort of immersive affect, as the whole thing is like a great action flick that’s a joy to read. Rohn’s artistry is quite awesome, comically stylized but detailed and weightily shaded – a European flair to the very 80s indie look (think First Comics, Epic, etc.) – and his acting and framing manages all of his storytelling impressively, cycling through the initial heist, a crash-landing on another planet, a discovery of buried treasure, a political conspiracy, and a final showdown, all without it ever seeming compressed for the short installment format.

There are some shortcuts, of course. It’s not quite clear why T.K. has a stereotypical Spanish accent and Lippman a German one, except, for better or worse, the “flavor” or comedic effect of those accents. Similarly, the class structure of the Holo’s world – seemingly divided between religious-fervored “haves” and the street-bound have-nots from which the Brothers (and other “mutates”) sprung – is never really clear, nor is the concept of mutants versus humans, for that matter. In other words, Rohn does light world-building, then lets his main characters and their scuffles carry the entertainment weight, and, in general, given how animated these leads are, it works out really well.