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September 19, 2018

Ack #1-3 (review)


Ack #1-3
Independently published, 2013-2018
Writers: Maxwell Yezpitelok, Felipe Choque

The superhero genre can rarely be accused of not taking itself seriously enough. A man in a cape posturing under a flag, perched on a gargoyle, or flying amidst the clouds on some random but altruistic patrol are images ingrained into the global consciousness. The publication of superhero genre comics, and the highly successful superhero genre motion pictures which have proliferated over the last decade have rendered such imagery as transnational archetypes.

Chilean comic book writer Maxwell Yezpitelok (a pseudonym) decided he wanted none of that muck, and so he created Ack.

Mr Yezpitelok , a graduate of the University of Valparaíso, has since 2010 been a contributor to Cracked.com, the online version of Cracked magazine (the printed edition of which ran from 1958 to 2007. The online version is the origin of many amusing lists and compilations which do the rounds on social media). Involvement in Cracked.com has refined Mr Yezpitelok’s comedic approach towards guileless and silly bisociation, vaguely reminiscent of Voltaire’s Candide, ou l’Optimisme (1759). The title character, Ack, is remarkably guileless like Candide. For example, Ack questions his parents as to whether he is adopted and being confused as they desperately try to avoid answering the question (the gag is that Ack is white and both of his parents are black).

The plot is simple enough. Various cubes containing pieces of advanced or alien armour are scattered about and gathered by various individuals, including Ack. Ack’s initial acquisition is a gauntlet which enables him to fend off attacks and drain energy. He uses this to defeat his first adversary and in doing so gains an augmented reality visor. Ack then goes on to fight Seek, a gang leader with a gauntlet that projects a flaming sword, and the two then spar with the grandiose “Emperor Rai” who can project a force field from his piece of cube-generated armour. After that, there is a fight with Crow, who uses his cube-generates armour to fly. Next will be Lin, who uses her cube to turn invisible and is about to snare some advanced weaponry towards the conclusion of issue three.

Mr Yezpitelok inadvertently reveals his youthfulness by framing the staged action as fights in the style of the video games and also widely used in manga. Each “level” gives Ack the opportunity to acquire another piece of armour. In that sense, Mr Yezpitelok is treading a well-worn path on his way through to Boss Level, a creepy skinless and eyeless alien . As one character puts it in issue 3, “Stop saying nerdy things, damnit! You’re infecting me with your nerdery!”

In the 2000 book Ethnographic Artifacts: Challenges to a Reflexive Anthropology (edited by S. R. Jaarsma, Marta Rohatynskyj), one of the contributors notes (at page 65), “In Latin America, the Chilean sense of humor is regarded as being biting, if a bit on the robust, rough side.” And so we see some of this in the dialogue. It is the humour which sets Ack apart from most superhero titles. The main villain of issue two, Rai, is vainglorious to the point of being delusional. During the Mid Fight Dialogue (a term of art for the superhero genre which we have recently coined) there are plenty of examples of absurd humour:

1. Lin: “He saw me! Run, Lin! Oh, and this would be a good time to stop thinking out loud.”

2. Rai: [on the verge of victory] “Hahaha! Being slim is overrated!”

3. Seek (falling back into old habits as a mugger): “You’re screwed, Birdy! Gimme the cube and the money and the shoes or you’re KFC!!”

Probably our favourite droll exchange is between a shopkeeper and a police officer, who is about to arrest Rai:

Shopkeeper: “That’s the thief! He’s the one who went into my store and escaped with all the Fanta cans!”

Police officer: “But he won’t escape from the law.”

It is fun stuff. If we have any complaint, it is that it is very slowly published. Such are the resources of the small self-publisher.

Ack (not to be confused with Amar Chitra Katha, or ACK, one of India’s largest selling comic book series) is available via ackwebcomic.com and Tumblr.

(A disclaimer: Mr Yezpitelok has been a contributor to our website, writing one article only in 2016 – but that article was one of our most discussed, to do with President Donald Trump. That relationship did not influence the conclusions in this critique.)

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