I’m constantly amazed when comics publishers re-release material originally published by a different company. Such is the case with The Complete Major Bummer Super Slacktacular from Dark Horse Comics. Major Bummer was originally published by DC Comics from 1997 to 1998, lasting just 15 issues. The series was written by John Arcudi (BPRD, The Mask), with art by Doug Mahnke (Green Lantern, also The Mask). Major Bummer was released at a time when DC was experimenting with different kinds of books (see also: Young Heroes in Love) and is a title that you would never see from them today. It’s very cool to look back and see books created when DC and Marvel were more willing to take a chance on books that take the superhero genre in new directions, which is what we get from Major Bummer.
Major Bummer is the story of Lou Martin, your stereotypical 90’s slacker. He’s got a crummy job, a crummy apartment, and he’d rather watch TV than get involved with anything. All of that changes when a couple of aliens implant technology in him that makes him super strong and occasionally super smart. Due to a name switch-up, the technology that was supposed to go to a civic-minded individual was put in the body of Lou, and he is less than impressed with the fact that he is now expected to go out and stop crime, protect citizens, and be your basic DC superhero. From there, he is forced to fight a variety of goofy villains in hilarious situations.
If you’re looking for a standard superhero story, you’re not going to get it here. Arcudi is not interested in telling that kind of tale. What you get here is a very unique take on the kind of superhero stories we’ve all read a million times before. This story was unique for its time, and still feels unique today. There is a dated feel to some of the references, and certainly the clothes of the 90’s make a bit of an embarrassing resurrection, but that’s to be expected. I mean, Superman had a mullet in those days and we’ve all done our best to try not to talk about it. Whoops, looks like I broke that rule. Anyway, it doesn’t matter that some of the references show their age, the story still feels fresh, especially in the face of superhero stories that are more and more reliant on the past. Major Bummer is kind of amazing in its ability to remain unique after all this time.
Reading Major Bummer, you can really see how Doug Mahnke has evolved as an artist. I’m not saying the art is bad here, but Mahnke’s style has definitely improved over time. His art is simpler here, less detailed than what it is these days. Mahnke has always been a great superhero artist, and you can see the groundwork for the artist he would become. It’s not his best work, but it is perfectly suited for the time in which this was created.
Overall, I was glad to have read Major Bummer. It was a book I had heard about when it was originally coming out but never picked up and thought I would never have the chance to actually read. It is a bit dated, but is in many ways as fresh today as it was fifteen years ago. If you’re a little tired of reading the same old superhero stories, this is well worth picking up. I give it a 4 out of 5.