MTV Dabbles in Comics

MTV continues to stretch beyond its music roots.  Now it's jumping into the comic book marketplace with a variety of very different titles under the brand name MTV Comics, all available digitally via Comixology.  They're hit-or-miss, but it shows that MTV is trying to develop new content for its network, and comics have proven to be cheaper testing grounds for story ideas than more expensive live-action pilots.  We'll see if any of these turn into successful franchises.

Agent Mom - At first, this tale of a suburban mom who leads a double life as a super-spy with powerful gadgets sounds awfully familiar.  We've seen the premise before a bunch of times -- the average ordinary person who secretly goes on exciting globetrotting adventures, battling evildoers in heroic fashion -- True Lies, Chuck, etc. Of all the MTV Comics properties, I consider this to have the most potential, however, because of the execution.  The artwork, though reminiscent of some other Web comics we might have seen already all over the Internet, is eyecatching enough and serves the story well.  It's the writing that brings it over the top.  Taylor Jane is a great character, multi-tasking as she fights terrorists while wearing a suit that gives her special powers and, at the same time, playing chess online, checking email, watching a movie, making phone calls.  It sounds ridiculous, but the creators (Adrianna Huffman, John Huffman IV, and Tony Lee) make it work.  Taylor is the perfect mom, but her adrenaline rushes when she steps into her government agent alter ego, and the reader connects to that energy.  So far, this is the title worth reading to see where they'll go with it.

Divination - The black-and-white manga style of this one (by Val Staples, Gina Iorio, and Julia Laud) is nothing unique, and the story is not much better.  Anastasia is a teenager who sees ghosts and Death itself.  The dialogue is forced at times and the characters are cliche, but it has a definite stereotypical MTV generation feel.

The Gloom - MTV is trying for a traditional superhero tale here, while playing up the humor.  Even the logo on the cover makes MTV Comics look like the old Marvel Comics header.  The story kickstarts nicely enough with a riff on Batman's origin.  Set in the 1940s, it doesn't take itself seriously at all, and starts getting convoluted and confusing.  It felt like a cheesy z-grade hero rather than a character I would want to keep reading about.  Tony Lee's art isn't as consistant as in Agent Mom and the writing by Dan Boultwood is at times great and at other times disappointingly terrible.

Hats - What the eff is this?  Like the worst comics that try to be edgy while having no story structure whatsoever, this one is a mess.  The colors are vibrant and psychadelic, but the short stories of a guy on a wacky planet are just too bizarre and pointless.  Unlike Alice in Wonderland or other masterpieces that made surrealist fantasies work, this seemingly drugged-out trip by Vasilis Lolos and various artists is crude, incoherent, juvenile, and silly, which means MTV probably thinks it's the best of the lot. 

Me2 - Here's another that might have potential -- about a girl named Crystal Carter who's been in a mental hospital and finally is freed to live with her grandmother.  Does she have psychic powers?  Was she abducted as a kid?  What secrets are the people watching over her hiding?  Created by Karl Altstaetter, it's a good, if unremarkable, set-up, but the first issue ends abruptly, so we'll see.

MTV Comics will be coming out with more content.  I'm looking forward to seeing The Adventures of Apocalypse Al by J. Michael Straczynski, for example.  We shall see if MTV can compete with the big boys and girls of comicdom, or if any of these properties (or future ones) eventually connect with mainstream audiences, which is surely MTV's ultimate goal.