Written and drawn by David Leach
Review by Peter Duncan
David Leach has had a lengthy career in comics, beginning with his creation of, Psycho Gran for the now legendary Oink!. Since then. he has worked for Marvel UK, IPC, Panini, Fleetway and Aces Weekly, among others, filling roles as a writer, artist, and editor.
He is currently a Senior Creative Editor for Titan Comics, where he oversees a plethora of ongoing projects. But it is in the pages of David Leach Conquers the Universe, a “semi-autobiographical” title that he produces for Dead Universe Comics, that he really lets go and indulges his inner-geek.
In the first issue, reviewed here by Tony Esmond, David saved the Earth from a giant, fire-breathing, reptilian monster and in the second, took on genetically created monsters who looked like some sort of alien. His targets for gentle and affectionate, if not exactly subtle, parody, straddle the full range of geekdom.
With the third issue, about to be published both physically and digitally, David is called upon once more, this time with a task lightly less impressive than saving the world. His assignment: rescue the reputation of the Michelin Guide to restaurants from a catastrophic loss of reputation.
The adventure begins when David is Interrupted by a man from M.A.R.S. (Meglomanic, Action, Reaction, Squad) just as he about to unleash a huge burst of creative energy, built up over twenty years of cartoonist’s block. He is summoned into the presence of General Hollywood, the head of M.A.R.S., who is operating under the control of “They” – shadowy figures who control the lives and sometimes the thoughts of David, General Hollywood and all the other characters in the comic.
What follows is an effective and very funny parody of James Bond, S.H.I.E.L.D. and the vagaries of role-playing games. There are terrible puns, mostly centering around cooking and awful jokes that can be seen coming pages before the payoff is delivered, there is also just a touch of innuendo from time to time, that works because it is gentle and not in the least mean-spirited.
The artwork is perfect for the project, falling somewhere between the style of UK humour weeklies and silver-age American comics. It’s detailed, expressive, and filled with visual jokes that don’t get in the way of the story yet add to the enjoyment of reading. This is a good-looking comic.
The main problem with most parody comics is that in a lot of cases they are clever, but not funny. Their appeal being based on delivering a mild sense of achievement to the reader when they recognise the various references the creators have dropped into the pages and very little else.
David Leach Conquers the Universe, however, is funny. The terrible puns are well placed, the telegraphed jokes are funny precisely because they are telegraphed, and when he does drop in one of those references that you are supposed to recognise, they are worth recognising.
But most importantly, the parody is delivered by someone who obviously loves all the little foibles of role- playing games, the clichés that fill most spy movies and knows how to write gags for comics.
The book ends on a cliff-hanger, designed to draw us back for a final, concluding part to the story. It wasn’t necessary. He had me when I spotted Donald Trump’s tie!
• Follow David Leach on Twitter @davidleach2000