17 February 2016

[comics] What We're Still Loving: The Helm

We're a bit late to the party on this one. But we stumbled on it in meeting a wholly witty person. Therein lies the tale.

During OryCon last, we stumbled upon a man billing himself as J.R.R.R. Hardison. Little did we know. He was promoting a book … but I'll not get ahead of myself. To promote himself, he was distributing copies of the comic he wrote, The Helm (with heroic art and Frazetta cover homage by Bart Sears). I thumbed through it, and, as though by fate, a sequence hooked itself right into my cortex.

It's just after our main character … Mathew Blurdy … has gone through the worst part of his no-good, very bad, terrible day. Not only has his girlfriend dumped him, publicly and humiliatingly, at his place of work … a DVD rental shop … his inability to keep it together there immediately and subsequently cost him his job. A miserable mess, the now-unemployed, now-nodding-lonely, 30-year-old, overweight manchild manages to intersect with an eerie, almost-comically portentious garage sale. A whim draws him hither, where he meets the titular artifact, which calls to him in only a voice he can hear.

Mathew is the Chosen One. But The Helm's vision is cloudy, that day … and once it sees what doughy clay it has to work with, tries to reject him, all but saying I said GOOD DAY, sir! And, in the frame after, after the garage sale's equally-creepy proprietor (who figures mightily in a crucial way much later) tells him bluntly to put the merch down unless he intends to buy, a bronze, chiseled hunk of a brick house appears as though fated to be, and asks to look at a sword. The Helm, tellingly, speaks not to him.

The hunk so distracted, the chunk steals away with The Helm.

That, friends, the sort of deft comic timing I enjoy. The joke may not be complex, but the telling is timed like a precision time piece. And that's the sort of comic timing that made the comic worth the possessing.

I've read it many times since; if I was going to write about it, I want to do it justice, but the subtext that sticks with me is that Mathew Blurdy is terribly believable. He gets the superpower, he slowly learns to pay the cost; like most mortals, he certainly didn't genetically know what to do next and stumbles about with it like a 6-year-old kid who just got the keys to a Lamborghini. But somehow, chaotically, when the moment presents itself, he goes with his considerable gut and shows he has what he needs just when he needs it. He ends the adventure changed a little, but not significantly, and The Helm, realizing it's stuck with him, does the best that it can with what it has to work with.

Everything and everyone in this play is so perfectly imperfect.

It's that comic timing and grasp of the absurdity that is people that give me high hopes for Jim's upcoming novel, Fish Wielder. The wit of The Helm's writing shows an aptness for writing sharp satire. I don't think I'll be disappointed, but the wait … the book's due out in August of this year. But, if the story's good enough for Piers Anthony to glowingly recommend it, and if the comic's good enough for Harlan Ellison to be delighted by it, then it ought to be good enough for anyone.

Holy crap, Jim! You did all the LOLs!

Contact Jim on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jim.hardison.75

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