Everything’s impossible until Mr Beaver does it
I’m afraid no one has told you this yet, but you need Mr Beaver in your life. It’s not a question of whether you want it or not. You need it; your soul needs it. In the midst of what has to be one of the weirdest times to be alive, where things like happiness and smiling seem to be a thing of the past, we need to find solace in awesome things. And, comics-wise, at least, there aren’t many things that could top this series.
Look, I would love to come directly to your house, Jehovah’s Witness style, a printed copy of Mr Beaver Vol. 1 on hand, and force you to read it while I explain how this one book can change your life. I’d love to, really, but local health authorities made me swear I wouldn’t do it again for the foreseeable future.
Joke’s on them. There isn’t that much future left to foresee.
Mr Beaver Vol 1
Writer: Pablo Verdugo Muñoz
Artist: Jose Exposito
A beaver with magical Psychodrive superpowers wearing a suit with joins the police force in order to track down a Zodiac-theme gang of evildoers in a straight-up early 90s action comedy sendoff. It also reads like a manga. And it’s Awesome. Like, capital-A Awesome.
He’s the hero we deserve…
You know what? Motivational posters do have it right from time to time. The best things in life are always the ones you didn’t even set out to find in the first place. They just materialize before you and start emanating an aura of joy that you can’t help but be absorbed by. It’s as if they were trapped inside some sort of hammer space between existing and not existing amongst, waiting patiently for you to notice them to begin working.
Like that one cat that you found napping in your front porch and becomes the grandkid you could never give your parents. Or the colorless M&M you forgot you saved for later a couple of months before you found it in the depths of your jean’s pocket. Or the answer to a question a random kid blurts out in the middle of the test without anyone prompting them to. You never expected these things and, yet, they make an indelible mark in your life – usually for good.
For me, the first arc of Mr Beaver can be added to the infinite list of amazing findings you never even fathomed existed but become so grateful of stumbling on them. Just as the still edible old M&M, Mr Beaver exists simply to bring joy. It’s just that good.
It all happened on what was seemingly another random lockdown afternoon. As it’s my custom nowadays, I started my daily plodding around the house as usual, accepting the fact I had finally arrived to that dreaded stage of human evolution where you become so old you start hating everything new.
It had been two days since I last said “things were better back in my day” without any semblance of irony. That meant I had to start considering the usage of khaki trousers up to my navel tucked in place thanks to two suspenders amongst other middle age stereotypes.
I didn’t feel that way yet, but the fact I had been using 20-year-old expressions as if they were still hip and the date of my birth certificate weren’t lying. I’m old. Too old, perhaps. It was about time I stopped enjoying things and started reminiscing about “the good ol’ days”, snapping at anyone about how new things aren’t worth it, and complaining about series reboots I won’t even watch. But just as I was accepting my fate, just as I had started the process of erasing smiling from my memory banks, an email stopped the process right on its tracks.
I would like to thank you for the great Mr. Beaver #2 review! I can send in all other issues of the first arc in PDF for review purposes, if you want. I just need confirmation and they’re yours.
Pablo Verdugo Muñoz.”
As soon as I read this, I squealed as high as a Ned Flanders impersonator. I loved Mr Beaver #2 and could not for the life of me think of a valid reason to say no to its creator’s request. I wanted to simply say “YES!!” in all caps, but that wouldn’t reflect good on the kind of public persona I try to put up. I had to be calmer and more collected. Once the excitement had settled in, my first instinct then was to emulate Stephen Colbert’s “give it to me, NOW” gif directly at the screen.
But email providers, as far as I know at least, aren’t able to understand these kinds of gestures, let alone convert them into text. Thus, the only sensible option at my disposal was to write a short email composed entirely of “Yes, I’d love to. Thank you.” As it turns out, one of the hardest feats to achieve in this line of work is hiding your excitement via dry emails in order to keep “professional” appearances up.
Mere seconds after I had clicked “SEND”, a WeTransfer link appeared on my inbox featuring the remaining issues of Mr Beaver. I was elated. So much so, in fact, that I consumed all 138 pages of the thing in one sitting. Thank the goddesses “comic book overdose” isn’t a thing yet.
…And also the one we need right now.
How was it? In one word: FUDGINGAWESOME. The entire first arc is basically the first three quarters of an amazing action flick that isn’t afraid to go places. Love it.
Now, a few weeks back, as I was reviewing Mr Beaver #2, one of the main concerns I had was that I hadn’t actually read the first issue beforehand. I was afraid I was coming in late to a story that needed my full undivided attention and would, therefore, find it hard to follow. Like how you feel when you arrive at the McDonald’s you’re supposed to meet your friends at and, as you approach the table, you hear one of them telling the second half of a really funny joke.
When the punchline drops, it’s pretty funny, so you do what society has taught you and laugh out loud. But wouldn’t it make much more sense, and therefore, be funnier if you listened to the entire thing? That’s when anxiety punches you in the gut so hard the resulting metaphorical bruise eats you from the inside all night long.
Maybe the joke wasn’t really about piña coladas as you thought, maybe it was about a political topic or, something far more complicated. Worse still, what if you just laughed at a racist joke in public? You could ask the comedian himself, seeing as he’s sitting right there, a few steps away from you, but he told the joke an hour ago. It’s too late to interrupt the flow of conversation for something as banal as recapping what amounts to nothing but a meaningless joke. At least, that’s what your anxiety is suggesting. But what if it’s wrong? What if your life depended on understanding every facet of said joke?
I was afraid my enjoyment of the comic book would be watered down by not knowing specific things, is what I’m saying. Surprisingly enough, now that I have gulped the entire first part of the saga, that’s not the case. And that’s not bad.
Sure, by reading issue 1 before issue 2 the saga of the anthropomorphic beaver with superpowers flows better than if you approach it out of order. But one of the best strengths of the first issue is how it is, fundamentally, a big action scene constructed in order to lure you into this world.
It’s but a collection of punches, guns, explosions, and action-man one-liners that wrap up with a foreshadow-heavy meeting between main character and main antagonist. Do you get backstory tidbits? A few. Are main characters introduced? Of course, they do. Does something important happen? If by “important” you mean “amazing”, then yes, the answer is yes.
If I recall correctly what I said about how Mr Beaver #2 felt, I couldn’t help but compare it to Western attempt at manga. My opinion still stands and, boy, does Mr Beaver #1 confirm my bias.
You see, one of my favorite things in this medium is to read the first issue of an indie comic book series I approached late in its life-cycle; especially if it’s one of those creator-owned-stories where the staff usually boils down to one dude and the three people that help him. It is by reading these premiere issues where you actually get a feel for what the author was trying to achieve.
Usually, that’s because they spent something between three months or an entire year working on that first chapter, doing their best to showcase every last inch of their talent, trying to impress readers on every line of every panel. They have to. Those issues are their cover letters. They need to shine the shiniest in order to force people to look at them.
Mr Beaver is one of those. You can smell the passion even through the digital pages. It’s amazing how much you can tell the author loves his character just by looking through the panels without reading. Better yet, you can even see how far Pablo Verdugo’s style has evolved since he penned these 36 pages.
Despite being really good, comparing his abilities here to his abilities on subsequent offerings of Mr Beaver, it appears something between 2 and 3 years of real-life time happened between chapters. You can even see how much Pablo improves by simply looking at Mr. Beaver’s model on the 5 covers. He looks better and better as time goes by.
Or the artiste could just be that good and simply has the ability to become a better version of himself every thirty-three seconds, Saiyan-style. I don’t know the man so I cannot actually confirm this, though, but weirder things have happened in the entertainment world.
Nevertheless, the most notorious thing in this issue, is, precisely, the style. Eye any random page on the issue and count the number of blocks of black ink splashed over them. This was clearly meant to be a black and white comic book. I mean, the volume of black shading, the sea of white outlines defining dark figures in dark rooms, the utter blackness of the pages’ backdrops.
They aren’t there just to give the story some visual weight. This was conceived as a black and white fare. Possibly in order to cash in on the noir influences of the piece, but I will maintain my belief that Shonen Jump’s grasp of Verdugo’s imagination is to blame here. This be a manga. A cool one, but a manga with all its trappings nonetheless.
But, as it was to be published in America, they just had to color it. Peoples love them colors, they say. And peoples do.
Sometimes it’s sad that the Western comic book industry is so obsessed with being flashy and filling magazine racks with the colorfulest explosions that it is mandated every commercial comic book HAS to be colored. There are some incredible masterpieces the world over that rely entirely on black ink over white paper, but some publishers just won’t allow that on their books. And, look, this is in no way a diss on José Expósito’s coloring prowess. The dude did an amazing job with the material given to him, I have zero complaints about his work, but you don’t draw that many black figures on your pages when you know someone’s going to paint bucket around them, you know?
Besides, I am completely aware that if a comic book like this one was, indeed, left black and white, people might look at it and immediately label it “amateur”. Not because it’d look bad or anything, but because comic fans have come to the conclusion that “no colors = cheap” since the market has become flooded with indie creators that soon discovered the truth: it’s virtually impossible to make a living out of making comics.
It’s been ages since I’ve known this, I am still not sure how to feel about this.
Anyway, as I was praising…
Back to happier things, though, there is nigh a bad thing I can say about the first arc of Mr Beaver. The pacing is good, the art is great, colors are vibrant, the lettering is aces. This is a great comic book. It’s only sin, if you want to find one, is how all issues seem to follow the exact same format of “flashback, story, flashback that explains the next part of the story, action scene, flashback, cliffhanger”.
But, is having structure in life really that bad a thing? Well, that and the lobster scene in issue 5. Sort of too left field and exaggerated, even for a comic book centered on an anthropomorphic beaver that wears a suit. Wasn’t that sold on that little deus ex machina, but I’m ready to let it slide in order to focus on the book’s strengths.
If you own a pair of eyes, are capable of reading English and have money to spare, the fact you haven’t bought Mr Beaver Vol. 1 yet is astounding. Is everything OK at home? Are you struggling in any sense? Maybe you’re going through that phase where you dislike happiness and the idea of smiling because your hormones told you so? We’ve all been there at one point or another, it’s “normal”.
Know that if you are still stuck in that menta place next week and still haven’t bought this comic, I’ll personally find you and look at you like your mother looks at you when she is so far past angry that she becomes disappointed in you.