Schmalke and Lynch’s Murder Hobo: Chaotic Neutral # 1 contains four fun, fast-paced fantasy stories set in an obscene and bizarre universe.
Experienced Dungeons and Dragons Players are most likely too familiar with Murder Hobos. They can be a thorn in the side of even the most patient Dungeon Master as they speed through the campaign assassinating and stealing with utter disregard for the narrative. In the aptly named series, Hobo Murder: Chaotic Neutral # 1, Joseph Schmalke and Jason Lynch are doing their part to project this archetype in a funnier, if not more favorable way. With his third Homeless murder book, the creative team delivers another winning issue with Scout Comics, an independent publisher perhaps best known for its series Henchgirl.
Neutral Chaotic Vagabond Murder # 1 is a collection of four tales, each of which follows a different adventurer as they navigate a dangerous and obscene universe. In “Spectra Liaison and the Faded Village,” written by Jarrett Melendez with art by Ryan G Browne, an orc traveler finds himself in a city kidnapped by a nefarious baron and copious amounts of his intoxicating goblin dust. The second story, “Murder Hornets,” written by Schmalke and illustrated by Steve Lavigne, pits a team of burly warriors against the titular insects. Schmalke also writes the last two pieces. “Big Momma Venus”, drawn by Steve Mardo, features a succubus facing her children and “Dost even though I have a coin?” Giving readers another chance to appreciate Browne’s art, follows a revived necromancer and his companions.
Meléndez and Schmalke’s humor is riddled with tongue-in-cheek references to role-playing games and fantasy tropes. Readers who are well versed in the various Dungeons and Dragons Archetypes will get the most out of these stories, but there are plenty for all to appreciate. Comedy that draws its inspiration from the rawest and rawest elements of the human experience often walks a blurred line between the daringly funny and the disappointingly youthful. The first story, “Spectra Liaison and the Faded Village,” tends to spend most of the time on the immature side of that line. Despite an inventive and wonderfully drawn cast of characters, most of the humor is based on name calling. This approach does a great job of setting the tone for the story and the theme as a whole, but after a page or two, the deluge of name calling and silly names starts to seem pretty monotonous. Similarly, “Big Momma Venus” begins with an inventive premise, but quickly turns into a series of innuendo; some of which are quite amusing, but none are enough to carry a complete story.
“Murder Hornets” is the strongest of the four stories. Use a wide variety of humorous devices while telling a compelling story. Where the other tales occasionally lean too heavily on a joke or sacrifice storytelling in favor of a laugh, “Murder Hornets” has his cake and eats it too. The ending acts as a punchline and climax, and there isn’t a wasted line of dialogue or art.
Lavigne’s bold lines, twisted characters, and outlandish blood go out of their way (and rude) to bring Schmalke’s killer bugs and the men who hunt them to life. Each creative team does their best in the action sequences. There is no shortage of severed limbs or caricatured corpses. The artists put their gallows humor on full display. The character designs in each story are amazing and they would feel equally at home in a D&D Manual or on Cartoon Network. Jason Lynch Color all the stories but one and write the entire comic. His work adds an extra layer of continuity to the collection.
The four stories generate laughs and work together to develop a sense of a world in which you live and play. Some of the humor loses its mark, but that doesn’t stop Schmalke and his creative cohorts from swinging over the fences. Previous fans Homeless murder titles will feel right at home in Neutral Chaotic Vagabond Murder # 1, and new readers will have no trouble getting started.
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