READ MY LIBRARY ENTRY 20: All the Ambush Bug You Could Ever Want!

Max’s head continues to spin as he works his way through Showcase Presents Ambush Bug, some of the silliest, continuity bending comics in the DC Universe.  The volume contains about as much Ambush Bug as you could ever want stand.  A wrap up and a look at where Ambush Bug is now…or isn’t.

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Written 2/25/12

Well, yesterday I spent the afternoon in the waiting room of my car dealership hanging out while my car got an oil change and as it turned out, new brake pads.  So I was there awhile and while the big screen TV in the waiting room was blaring Fox News, I found the only distraction more insane than the windbags spewing their spin over the air at me: Ambush Bug comics.

Now I haven’t read or written recently.  My wife took a short trip out of town and I’ve spent it hanging out with friends and goofing off but also doing other work.  Plus, I think I needed a short break from Ambush Bug.  But with nothing to do but wait and read yesterday, I plowed through nearly the rest of Showcase Presents Ambush Bug and finished the rest in the wee early morning hours of today.

Son of Ambush Bug #3

Ambush Bug #3 spoofs the classic "Flash of Two Worlds" cover for fun

The break helped, as I am refreshed and a little distanced from the nonstop antics of Ambush Bug, Giffen and Fleming.  As such, it made it easier to read the rest.  The ongoing plots of the story in Son of Ambush Bug do kind of go somewhere, but are neatly wrapped up and abandoned for more fun.  It works.  The end is kind of dramatic, in that Ambush Bug is sentenced to Limbo (not quite a spoiler, as it’s the cover to Son of Ambush Bug #6), but also kind of fitting, considering the character and his odd status within the DCU.

Son of Ambush Bug #6

Ambush Bug's exit to limbo in Son of Ambush Bug #6 is another spoof of a classic Flash cover, this time Flash #159, where Barry Allen retired from being the Flash

Next up is a brief story coming from Secret Origins, a comic series dedicated to telling origin stories of various heroes.  Of course, Ambush Bug’s origin was always a seemingly fake one, as it was basically an amalgamation of Superman’s, Spider-Man’s and the Fantastic Four’s origins (rather, that’s the origin of his costume!).  Ambush Bug never really gave out his origin, and things really don’t change here.  Though there are a couple origin stories attributed to him, but they’re just more silliness.

Finally there is the Ambush Bug Nothing Special that was done in 1992, and as such, it introduces Ambush Bug to various then-newer properties of DC, such as Vril Dox of L.E.G.I.O.N. (and later R.E.B.E.L.S.), Lobo (another Giffen creation) and Neil Gaiman’s Sandman.  Ambush Bug tries to get jobs with these characters and others in the DCU but comes up short.  Then Bug finds himself in a time traveling frenzy trying to outlive DC’s then Goodwill Ambassador, the now late legendary Julius Schwartz in order to get his job.  No matter how far into the future Ambush Bug goes, Julie Schwartz is always there waiting for him (and trying to incidentally reintroduce a forgotten character named “Lobo” a few times millennia apart).  It’s pretty goofy stuff, and I got a few hearty chuckles out of this story.

Ambush Bug Nothing Special

Ambush Bug Nothing Special saw Ambush Bug visiting DC's characters of the 1990s

Though my patience and attention span were occasionally tried while reading Showcase Presents Ambush Bug, overall I was very pleased with this book.  My only real complaints outside of it being just almost too random and silly at times (at least for a sustained cover to cover reading—for me anyway) are with the Showcase format itself.  The cheap paper and black & white images of stuff that used to be color is disappointing, but if this is the only way DC plans to collect this stuff (and the back of the book jokes that “This is the closest to the ABSOLUTE AMBUSH BUG as you’re going to get!”) I’m happy with my purchase, but while I don’t think an Absolute Edition is in order, color would be nice.  This is particularly noticeable in the Nothing Special’s final couple pages, which feature a spread of DC characters drawn tiny and it’s very hard to pick out some of the characters without color cues.  Again, if this is the only way I’m gonna get collected Ambush Bug, yeah, I’ll take it but I’d pay even more for this stuff in color.  Of course, I’m probably in the minority, so I guess these Showcase volumes make sense for material DC can publish and still make a buck on.  Ambush Bug isn’t my first Showcase volume, and it won’t be my last either—black & white or not, if the material’s good and not collected elsewhere, Showcase is the way to go.

So if you can live with black & white, then I say give Showcase Presents Ambush Bug a try.  Especially if you like silly, random, kooky books that aren’t tied down by continuity at all.  Ambush Bug literally laughs in the face of continuity, and some stories even exploit this fact.  It’s just really silly fun, and shows the character’s progression from a villain to nuisance to hero to genre breaking oddball.  But if you’re of the mind to track down the individual issues to get the color stories, I say go for it!  Not only are they in color, but reading them one at a time may remove the possibility of getting overwhelmed by silliness that I experienced reading through the collection in chunks.

I have many of these issues in color myself, but wanted to read through the Showcase collection as it was a book I bought for the library, and I’m, ya know, trying to read the library.  So while it’s a little unfortunate I read these Ambush Bug stories in black and white for the first time, it will make them all the more enjoyable to revisit in the individual issues.  What’s more, it gives me the perfect reason to read Ambush Bug Year None which hilariously took over a year to complete although it was only six issues.  At least they finished it!  It doesn’t look like there is going to be a trade paperback of that mini-series either, so I better get cracking on the issues sometime soon just as a follow up for myself…

It's Cheeks the Toy Wonder!

The Black & White format of the Showcase volumes detracts from these reprints of material that was more vibrant in color.

Showcase Presents Ambush Bug provides a crash course and then some into what Ambush Bug is all about.  The lack of color aside, this is a comprehensive collection getting the majority of the Ambush Bug material—save for the most very recent material and random cameos Ambush Bug made over the years—all in one place.  It’s clever and quite funny, but a little bit goes a long way.  However, if you’re a fan of the character or want to see DC doing really off the wall, random parody comics then this collection is for you.  You just might want to pause a little between issue breaks so the randomness doesn’t  make your head spin too much.

Although Ambush Bug was most recently appeared in Keith Giffen’s recent Doom Patrol series, the future for the character in DCnU looks grim.  Dan DiDio has gone on record saying that the one character not returning for the New 52 reboot will be Ambush Bug, as Keith Giffen is apparently tired of the character and feels that he is done with Ambush Bug for good.  Will this ever change?  Maybe, but trust me, what we’ve got of Ambush Bug is enough to suffice decades aside from a couple of the jokes being a bit dated.  Still, with DC’s new initiatives, continuity retcons, and plans for Watchmen prequels, the company is quite ripe for the self-parody, industry gags and examinations of the quirks of continuity that the Ambush Bug material provided.  Though we may have seen the last of Ambush Bug for the time being, Showcase Presents Ambush Bug provides just about all the Ambush Bug you’ll ever need—though sadly, without color.  Still, it’s nice to have all these stories in one volume.

That’s it for now!

Past entries of the Read My Library Blog

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