Mystery Science Theater 3000 #1
Dark Horse Comics
Writers: Harold Bucholz and Joel Hodgson
Artists: Todd Nauk and Mike Manley
While comic book adaptations of movies and TV shows have filled the racks for some time now, Mystery Science Theater 3000 #1 is still surprising. The cult classic originally debuted in 1988 with an 11-year run. Last year, a new season premiered on Netflix with different actors and a new direction. Despite the numerous changes in cast and crew over the years, its basic premise has remained consistent. An average Joe ends up kidnapped by villains, both of the workplace and the “super” variety, and forced to watch terrible movies with robots. Unfortunately, that doesn’t translate well to a comic book format. Outside of the occasional skit, MST3K was always about riffing on terrible low budget movies. Mystery Science Theater 3000 #1 tried its best, but unfortunately, it fails to capture the show’s appeal.
First and foremost, the comic is an adaptation of the Netflix revival. How much you’ll enjoy this book relies on how much you enjoy that version of the show. Besides sharing the same characters and premise, it’s also inherited a lot of the revival’s problems. New bots, M. Waverly and Growler, are frankly redundant. They never do or say anything that Crow, Tom Servo, or Gypsy can’t. Like the new show, there’s too much focus on the skits than the actual riffing. The unwieldy explanation for how they can riff on comics takes up half the issue. That in itself is a problem, as instead of just reading and commenting on the comic, they have to be miraculously inserted into the story. To put it simply, there’s limited novelty in giving the teen reporter, Johnny Jason, Tom Servo’s gumball machine head.
That leads to the real problem with Mystery Science Theater 3000 #1: the show’s humor doesn’t work in a comic book format. Even with the unwieldy merging of MST3K’s world with that of the comics, the riffing feels intrusive instead of being a welcome addition. A few jokes are genuinely funny, and you can at least distinguish them from the regular dialogue. But most of it is pretty lifeless. The worst one is a “fake” ad for Totino’s Pizza Rolls that takes up a whole page. Additionally, so much of the show’s humor comes from the actors’ delivery, which the comic doesn’t capture. In its defense, it’s unlikely you could successfully make that work in a medium with no audio.
Todd Nauck’s illustrates most of the opening sequence, along with the additions to the ancient pages of Johnny Jason: Teen Reporter, the subject of their riffing. The garish colorwork of Wes Dzioba and Mike Manley also lends it an unfortunate uncanny valley feel. Manley’s additions to Teen Reporter stand out too much, another reason it’s overwrought approach to comic riffing doesn’t work.
Despite its best efforts, Mystery Science Theater 3000 #1 fail to bring its legendary style to the page. Unfortunately, they ended up straying too far from the premise just to make something coherent. It did pioneer thinly disguised product placement in comics if nothing else.
Mystery Science Theater 3000 #1
Mystery Science Theater 3000 #1 fails to capture the magic of the show, as it falls between the cracks of two different mediums.