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September 24, 2017

Henry the Cantankerous Hamster #2 (Review)


Henry the Cantankerous Hamster #2
Rising Sun Comics
Writer: Jason Long

We have previously reviewed writer Jason Long’s work on issue 1 of this curious and very funny title, “Henry the Cantankerous Hamster”. This is a review of the second issue.

In constructing a new concept, it is a natural trap for writers to spend a disproportionate amount of time on the introductory story or prologue. The example of this failure of balance which immediately comes to our mind is Mike Carey’s “Lucifer” (Vertigo Comics, 2000-2006). Mr Carey manifestly spent enormous amounts of effort on the “Lucifer” miniseries which propelled the main title, only to lose his voice for half a year. The long view can require faith, creative resilience, and the skill to lay the groundwork for a solid forward plot.

Mr Long however has all the time in the world. The benefit of independent publication is that the writer is under no real commercial time restraints. Each issue can be released without the pressure of a budget or other financial oversight.

This is a particular benefit when dealing with the tricky business of comedy. Comedy, and perhaps clever adult comedy, is mostly about timing. Mr Long has the luxury of ensuring that his timing within his text is precise. And as with the first issue, the teeth of the cogs do not miss a tick. There are some genuine belly-rumblers in the second issue. And as we noted in our first review, the concept of drunk, filthy-mouthed characters interacting with a grumpy cyborg would not work so well if the drunks were not mice and the cyborg was not a hamster.

Referencing both “Lucifer” and “Henry the Cantankerous Hamster” in the single paragraph might seem eccentric at first blush. But, like Lucifer, the aloof and combative Henry is lord but not master of his subterranean place of exile. Henry has a superior intellect, vast resources in the form of his mechanical arsenal, and enhanced combat skills. Yet he is on the run. Joined by three mice who serve as the comedic foils to his curmudgeon dourness, a rat drops in from a surface drain. The rat seems to have been a victim to some other hamsters. There is a hint of some sort of “program”. And at the end, it seems likely that Henry will face his peers. Henry’s cantankerous demeanour, apparently, is fuelled by stress and fear.

It is difficult to see where this ends. Will Henry prevail? We assume at some stage there will be some sort of melee involving the conquering rat army, the newly assertive and rioting mice horde, Henry’s formidable hamster opponents, and the newly introduced frog soldiers. Whatever chaos Mr Long brings to his readership, we are confident it will be well-oiled with his strident humour.

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