“I’m gonna kill you. If you don’t beat me to it.“- “Kyoto” by Phoebe Bridgers
Crush and Lobo #3 is the middle chapter of a relationship drama writ cartoonishly and cosmically large from Mariko Tamaki, Amancay Nahuelpan, and Tamra Bonvillain. In this issue, Crush arrives at a space prison and meets with Lobo aka Inmate 2981 for Parents’ Day swapping stories with a preying mantis alien, who has witnessed many acts of head eating. Their encounter starts okay, but like most things featuring the Main Man, it goes off the rail quickly. After two issues of mainly Crush (Who is an icon by the way.), we get to be spend more time with Lobo in Crush and Lobo #3, and Tamaki and Nahuelpan toy around with reader expectations by having him extol the virtues of therapy. (It’s mandatory, or you get lobotomized.)
Although Crush and Lobo #3 has the sarcastic asides and action-filled mayhem that Mariko Tamaki and Amancay Nahuelpan excel at, this issue begins a little slower and digs into the annoyance of a parent, who says they’ll improve your relationship, but keeps backsliding. Lobo wants to rebuild his relationship with Crush and even invites her to see a robot therapist at his prison to “break the cycle”, but, of course, he has ulterior motives. As evidenced in her mainstream comics work (See this week’s I Am Not Starfire for an extremely recent example.), Tamaki isn’t afraid to play around with the traditional versions of characters. But Lobo is very allergic to change: his existence basically predicates being a loud, brash chaotic son of a bitch. Mariko Tamaki walks a thin line between deconstructing Lobo and playing him utterly straight milking a lot of comedy out of his active listening to the aforementioned mantis alien. Nahuelpan’s art is almost deadpan, and Bonvillain has a palette suitable for a low lit space prison with little pops of color for the orange jumpsuits and aliens. It’s all to lure readers into a false sense of security, but the series is halfway through and is screaming for a big Lobo moment.
However, as befitting her top billing in the title, Crush, not Lobo, gets the big action sequence in Crush and Lobo #3 as Amancay Nahuelpan gets to cut loose after pages of talking heads. (He draws some fun background squabbles during Crush and Lobo’s heart to heart.) He slices and dices the page, and Tamra Bonvillain adds blues and blacks as Crush springs into combat against the prison guards, who are attacking her no apparent reason and also calling her “little girl”. This is something that Crush hates being called, and she goes berserk. I love this little moment because it gives Crush a strong motivation for her actions instead of “Oh, it’s been a few pages, let’s have a fight scene.”. Tamaki and Nahuelpan continue to portray her as utterly competent and utterly screwed as she is swarmed by more and more security guards and only figures out what the audience knows until too late. If the first issue’s breakup with Katie was rock bottom, Crush and Lobo #3 ends in a more precarious situation. Lobo is walking tall and practically begging to be drawn by Simon Bisley as he walks away from a drama-filled situation chewing on a grenade pin.
Because the focus is more on Crush and Lobo’s relationship, this issue only features one Katie flashback, and it’s when Crush missed meeting her parents. The scene is a little over a page, and Amancay Nahuelpan draws Katie and her parents in a more photorealistic style to show the difference between her normal life and Crush’s superhero/antihero shenanigans. It also shows that Crush is more comfortable doing something that she is good at (i.e. kicking ass) than having an emotionally vulnerable conversation, which is a thread that flows through Crush and Lobo #3. Until overwhelmed by sheer numbers, Crush holds her own against her opponents. You can’t say the same about her angst-filled chat with a Lobo, who is talking more like Bojack Horseman than the Main Man thanks his group therapy sessions.
Crush and Lobo #3 finally gets the two leads of the series in the same room together, and Mariko Tamaki and Amancay Nahuelpan give the two Czarnians wonderful chemistry before blowing it all to hell. The space prison is a fun setting, and this issue has plenty of humor and fisticuffs to go with the attempts at heart-to-hearts
Story: Mariko Tamaki Art: Amancay Nahuelpan
Colors: Tamra Bonvillain Letters: Ariana Maher
Story: 8.0 Art: 8.4 Overall: 8.2 Recommendation: Buy
DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review
Purchase: comiXology – Kindle – Zeus Comics – TFAW