Some comics you hate. Some you’re indifferent to. Others you like. And then there are those, all too rare it seems, that you absolutely fall in love with.
Let me introduce you to the latest object of my unbridled affection, David King’s Yellow Flag Intelligence Squadron #1.
Published under the auspices of King’s own Gentle Books imprint at the tail end of last year, this is pure cartoony “eye candy” from start to finish, expressive and engaging and inherently humorous drawings in service of an endlessly creative story that pits our trio of instantly-adorable heroes (Calorie, Brainer, and Killer Bear — even their names just make you wanna give ’em all a hug) that make up the legendary Earth-based Division 0001.0 of the titular squadron against their only real foe, namely themselves. Their mission to “protect all sentient life” seems pretty somber and serious, but when you’re not getting much by way of orders from headquarters, what are you gonna do but talk about your weird dreams, try to scare the shit out of each other, and fret about the gremlin growing inside your finger?
Crafting a tale that features no external “threat” will get you flunked right out of Storytelling 101, but it worked a hell of a lot of the time for the likes of Watterson, Schulz, Herriman, and Kelly, to name-drop just a few, and while King probably can’t number himself in such elite company yet, he’s clearly done his homework, learned at the foot of the masters, and has a very natural affinity for the type of things they did so well. “We’ve met the enemy, and he is us,” indeed.
And while we’re rolling out the famous tag-lines, “hijinks ensue” is another one that applies perfectly in this instance, and I in no way mean that to sound as reductive or even potentially derogatory as it might seem at first glance. On the contrary, hijinks are fun. They’re goofy. They’re nonsensical. And, if done right, they tell us something about the characters perpetuating and/or subjected to them, as well as about ourselves. King doesn’t just do them right, he does them exactly right, and while following a successful formula is one thing, it’s all for naught — no matter how well-executed — if there’s not a generous, caring, truth-beating heart underpinning it all. Needless to say — but I’ll happily, even proudly, say it anyway — King’s comics are all heart.
Well, okay, they’re all heart — with talent to match. King’s a born humorist with a gentle touch (his publishing “company” is aptly named indeed) and a keen sense of timing that balances the outrageous with the everyday and finds the mirror image for each in both. As I happily pore over the contents of this obvious labor of love yet again, I’m searching for some flaw — not matter how small or borderline-insignificant — to lend some semblance of cool, critical objectivity to my appraisal, just for the sake of appearances if nothing else, but you know what? I’m coming up empty, and never have I felt more joy in uttering those words. This is everything you love about comics, sure, but it’s more than that — it’s everything you love about stories and imagination in general. And the best part is, it loves you right back.
Yellow Flag Intelligence Squadron #1 is available for $5.00 from Austin English’s Domino Books at http://dominobooks.org/yellowflag.html