Hsu & Chan: Too Much Adventure
by Norm Scott
(Slavelabor, 2004)

Norm Scott first drafted Hsu and Chan Tanaka as comedic video game designers, shilling astonishingly bad -- sometimes fatally bad -- knockoffs of fad games and toys. In the pages of Electronic Games Magazine, they pushed radioactive hamsters and infiltrated boardrooms in camouflage. The duo's deadpan reaction to the most absurd situations and willingness to pursue any angle in the quest for a buck soon expanded their horizons and, as Hsu states, they reap the bitter fruits of their dramatic versatility with Too Much Adventure.

Hsu & Chan shares an obvious influence with Evan Dorkin's Milk & Cheese, but unlike Dorkin -- and many other post-modern humorists -- the Tanaka universe takes no especial pleasure in the degradation or suffering of others. True, the brothers have their sworn enemies, the samurai-garbed Yamamoto clan of game developers, but their wrath is short-lived and easily distracted by shiny objects. In their other adventures, Hsu and Chan usually behave as heroes, if strangely disinterested ones. They do defeat an ancient demon, conquer a dragon and expose the dark truth behind sci-fi collectibles in a few quick issues. They face real danger and occasional dismemberment with the same oddly formal calm they bring to a day in the foreign food market. Watching their end results of their calamitous adventures, it's easy to see where they attained their phlegmatic attitude. When a hell dimension of eternal darkness and pain features a vending machine, it makes the universe in general seem less threatening.

One caveat: While I don't normally feel the need to discuss details of print layout, Norm Scott's heavy dialogue relies on small and densely packed lettering. If you've started carrying reading glasses, you're going to face a slight challenge.

But Hsu and Chan are well worth a bit of squinting. Those not sure if they'll enjoy a comic rife with radioactive chipmunks, mummified science fiction stars and demons who ruin the upholstery can get a sample of Scott's rather particular brand of humor from the free comics on his website. And when you're convinced, you don't have to change sites to buy the book.

- Rambles
written by Sarah Meador
published 13 November 2004

Buy it from Amazon.com.