This comic is so bad, so wrong, that it’s almost physically painful. If you’re unlucky enough to come across Mantra vol 2 #6 in a quarter bin or at a garage sale, PUT IT DOWN. You may experience numbness in your extremities, dizziness, and an uncomfortable burning itch in your groin. Wait a second, the burning itch in the groin is a separate problem that I need to deal with and isn’t a result of this terrible comic.
But enough about me. Let’s talk about Mantra vol 2. and why it sucks so bad.
Long story short: Mantra was a comic in Malibu Comics’ Ultraverse superhero line about a tough warrior dude trapped in a beautiful woman’s body and all the crazy mixed-up adventures s/he got in. For more information, I previously discussed my guarded affection for Mantra here and gave a sort of overview of Malibu Comics here.
Malibu Comics and all of their characters were purchased by Marvel in the mid-Nineties. Rumor has it the company was acquired because they had a bitchin’ in-house coloring department using there newfangled contraptions called computers. Shortly after the takeover, Malibu made some changes to their core titles like Mantra.
The original premise of the series was defenestrated and Mantra was re-launched with a new main character, a teenage girl who had the look and personality of a blow-up sex doll. The new Mantra series, which seemed to target a demographic of perverted old men and peeping toms, lasted only seven issues before grinding to a merciful halt. Sometimes the Comic Gods are wise and just.
And just looking at Mantra #6, you can see why the series was cancelled. This book is fucked-up on so many levels.
Allow me to engage in cheap simile to describe this comic. The plot is thinner than the Olsen twins, the teenage dialogue is more out-of-touch than Hall & Oates, and the art is as awkward as a first date.
The story by Tom Mason concerns a) Valley Girl Lauren trying to adjust to her new Mantra powers while wearing as little clothing as possible, b) the arrival of a horny new super hero, Impulse – err, I mean Rush, and c) a spooky tattoo that transforms a jock into a demon whose diet consists exclusively of buxom women. The gender politics of the comic land somewhere between Porky’s and Friday the 13th.
Here is Scott showing off his awesome new demon tat to his awe-struck classmates:
The art by Dave Roberts is heavy on the cheesecake and light on the backgrounds - really light on the backgrounds. The cover is a good example of the level of detail that went into each panel of the comic. Roberts must have been working under a wicked deadline or something, because the book is full of tons of art shortcuts and cheats.
And the clothes. Oh Christ, the clothes. Maybe the book is a period piece set in Rock n’ Roll High School circa 1982, because all the kids in this book look like they stepped out of a Winger video. I mean seriously – striped leg-warmers?
Don't these girls have parents? Who let them out of the house dressed like that? Maybe those girls are going to a Ho Economics class or something! (Thank you very much, you guys have been great, I'll be here all week, try the buffet.)
There is something profoundly icky about this comic and its hyper-sexualized teenage characters. The book feels like it was created by and for dirty old men as a sort of weird adolescent fantasy – a 40-year old’s dream of a music video high school complete with young girls who dress like tramps, peeping toms, and the requisite hot school nurse. They just needed to throw in a panel of an 80’s heavy metal guitarist jamming in the school hallway to complete the effect.
The character Rush seems to serve no plot purpose, but he’s the new kid at school with the “nice butt.” Half the comic is devoted to this creepy little bastard, including a three-page sequence played for laughs where he spies on Mantra while she’s toweling off.
Rumor has it the creative team inserted this scene under protest at the direction of the editor, who wanted more under-age flesh in the book, apparently. I can’t confirm this, but the scene serves no purpose and in no way advances the plot.
Ostensibly the story concerns the school stud’s haunted tattoo, which turns him into a green mohawked demon whenever he’s around women of a certain cup-size. The demon attacks a scantily clad woman in an alley, then kills and mutilates the hot school nurse (in a “funny” scene the principal covers up the gruesome murder because the school board is visiting) and then moves on to lover’s lane and the gripping climax of this tale.
The demon’s dialogue is creepily sexualized – when he’s attacking or killing women he says stuff like, “I like girls who play hard to get” or…
Of course, Mantra happens to be parked in a car nearby at lover’s lane making out with what appears to be a stuttering middle-aged man.
No, seriously, look:
Mantra hears the unfortunate girl’s screams and suits up for action. “That’s no scream of pleasure!” she says. No shit?
We end with a cliffhanger of sorts as Mantra confronts the demon while Rush suddenly appears in the background. “Man, this town rocks!” Rush says, “I love it!” Because mutilated chicks = teh awesome.
This comic would make a college Women’s Studies course explode with rage. Granted, the 500 people who purchased this were probably all males over 30, but I shudder to think of what a budding young adolescent would make of this comic. Not to get all P.C. on your ass, but Mantra #6 is insultingly retrograde in its depiction of teenage girls as sex toys - objects to be fondled, ogled, and eaten.
Ick. Ick. Ick.
This comic truly deserves the Dave’s Long Box “The Pain” Award. The bright side is that Mantra vol 2 was cancelled the very next issue (about six issues late).