Tozzer 2: Special Edition TPB

Reviewed by Will Cooling

Title: Tozzer 2
Written by Rob Dunlop
Art by Peter Lumby
Coloured by Eric Erbes
Published by Ablaze Media

ISBN: 0-9543008-1-5

Magician – Check
Dysfunctional Family – Check
Private Boarding School – Check
Numerous “Star” Cameos – Check
Bad Guy In A Silly Hat – Check

That list could have spelt boredom faster than “Checkmate” if allowed to get in the wrong hands (like a certain Glaswegian author) but in the hands of two twisted, jaded British comic book creators it may just offer us something special.

Yep this is Tozzer 2: Special Edition TPB from the warped minds of Rob Dunlop and Peter Lumby. What they do with Tozzer is to get as many film references as they can, add a dose of cynicism and wit, then stir. The basic premise is simple; Tozzer is a gifted illusionist and all round good egg with a loyal friend named Rod and a hot girlfriend called Hornie. Together these three will save the school and Hollywood from the hands of…the baddie. However, Dunlop uses this plot as a basis for an outlandish satire of all things Hollywood, with the likes of Michael Jackson, Michael Moore, Vin Diesel, Samuel L. Jackson and George Lucas being mocked and distorted.

Now satire is a notoriously hit and miss genre and Tozzer is no exception. Some of the jokes do fall flat, in particular some of the earlier Michael Jackson ones (although there is a good punch line at the end). The Lara Craft cameo seemed a bit random. However, when Dunlop does get it right the jokes are excellent, for example his brilliant satire of Michael Moore. Dunlop really excels at surreal humour, with the biggest laughs in the book coming from non-satiric jokes such as Samuel L. Jackson’s confrontation with his Yoda glove puppet and some good counter-intuitive gags (i.e. that set up a traditional joke and then swerve the reader on the punch line). That said, the final reveal of the bad guy and his FIENDISH PLOT OF DOOM are pure satire and very, very funny.

Dunlop’s writing is more than just laughs though, as he shows a sound grasp of “straight” comic book storytelling with good characterization and action sequences. His characterization of the main characters is good and consistent, with Tozzer in particularly shining as a slightly cracked version of the All-American child hero. His pastiches of major actors are all credible, as he shows a good ear for dialogue when aping their speech patterns. Whilst there are very few action/fight sequences in the book, they are all written extremely well, although all of them are done tongue in cheek.

One of the strange things about Dunlop’s writing is the extent to which being presented in TPB form benefits it. When I bumped into him at Bristol he argued that my reviews of the first three issues were unfair because the elements I disliked would be vindicated at the end of the series. In addition, he said that the story would read better as a trade paperback as originally it had been written for that format. And he’s largely right on both points. Quite a bit of what I disliked about the Michael Jackson subplot (i.e. that it was predictable) is redeemed with the eventual punchline, whilst the story flows sooo much better when collected together. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, certain scenes that on some level flop don’t dominate and therefore tank the TPB, as they did in the singles (i.e. the Michael Jackson scenes in the first issue). Secondly, the story feels like it has gained half a step in pace in this collected version. The overall effect is to make for a better reading experience.

Another advantage that the TPB has over the comic is the art. Peter Lumby’s art was a highlight of the singles with his blocky, cartoonish style being perfectly suited to the story. He was especially good at caricatures of the rich and famous, as he manages to exaggerate their quirks whilst still leaving them as credible characters in the wider story. However, they have managed to make the art even better by getting it coloured for the TPB. Eric Erbes does a great job in bringing the best out of Lumby’s artwork with his strong, bold colours helping the art leap off the page. Indeed, the production values for this TPB are excellent across the board: excellent design, paper quality and extra features including cover gallery, design sketches and a very interesting interview with the creators. The obvious efforts that have been made to ensure that the TPB is produced to the highest standard are extremely impressive, especially when you consider how low the price is ($15/£9).

What you have with Tozzer is a very entertaining and likeable story. It’s certainly not the greatest story to have been produced, but it’s pretty damn good at what it aims to offer the reader-shits and giggles. What’s more it is a professional comic, without an inch of difference in the production standards of this TPB and your average Big Two release. If you’re looking to spend a fun hour with a comic, then you could do a lot worse than giving Tozzer 2 a go.