Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Review: The Night of the Mary Kay Commandos: A Bloom County Book by Berkeley Breathed

The Night of the Mary Kay Commandos: A Bloom County BookThe Night of the Mary Kay Commandos: A Bloom County Book by Berkeley Breathed
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was lucky enough to pick up a pile of classic Bloom County strips at a library book sale. This is the only one of the set that I remember reading before. It also seems to be when the comic strip was at its best.

In this volume, Bill the Cat runs for president, with Opus as his running mate. Opus is called in front of a congressional committee to determine his liberalism, which takes him out of the running. Bloom County is ordered to meet a gender parity quota, only to learn there's already a woman among them, sparking a witch hunt. Oliver, the young black scientist of the group, discovers that cat sweat regrows hair, and its outlawing (due to "acking" side effects) turns it into a lucrative illegal trade. And Opus breaks into an animal testing facility in hopes of reuniting with his mother, leading to a run-in with the title characters ("Even their uzis are pink!").

This set of strips has Opus gaining prominence as a main character in Bloom County. Whereas earlier strips put him in more of a sidekick role, in these, most of the stories center around him. I don't think that makes him an author mouthpiece, though, unless the author suffers from very poor self-esteem. The strip never resists a chance to point out how awkward, effeminate, and undesirable he is.

The issues that come up in the comic strip kept up with current events very well in their publication in the late 1980's. Most of the punchlines reference the news soundbites in ways most readers would recognize. That doesn't make them foreign or hopelessly dated, though. We still talk about the media's reactionary nature, the War on Drugs, gender roles, animal testing, and divisive politics.

I've been enjoying revisiting these old strips. Dated as some of the jokes are, it's nice to finally understand some of them in their proper context. I'm glad I had the chance to do so.

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