Viper’s Space Circus delivers zany, appropriately Pixar-esque antics in a formulaic (but fun) all-ages package.
Guys, I have bad news. I won’t draw this out or try to sugarcoat it. Profits are down, and people just aren’t as interested in clowns and acrobats as they used to be…. We’re going to have to close the circus.
It’s a familiar formula, and realizing that is key to enjoying Viper Comics’ Space Circus. This book was originally written as a screenplay (by Universal Soldier writer Richard Rothstein), and it’s easy to see how it could have easily made the transition from the page to the big screen. Four-armed Cosmo Nidditch, son of a high-ranking military officer, wants more than anything to be a clown, and his parents react with predictable disapproval. Far from eager to bow to their wishes and follow in his warrior father’s footsteps, Cosmo runs away to join the (space) circus.
It’s there that he meets Rollo, an alien stuck, along with Cosmo himself, washing dishes, hanging out on the sidelines while others take the spotlight. No sooner has Cosmo arrived, though, than Mr. Cyrus, the circus’s owner, announces that the circus is closing down. People just aren’t showing up as much as they used to; things are bad, and nothing can be done to save the circus’s falling prospects. Nothing… except maybe an act like the Berrendo Brothers, the famous clown act of years gone by.
But the Berrendo Brothers haven’t been seen in years, and they’re rumored to have gone into retirement in some backwater part of the galaxy called Miami Beach. Thus begins the quest of Cosmo and Rollo, out to find the Berrendo Brothers and convince them to come out of retirement to revitalize the Cyrus Brothers Intergalactic Traveling Circus. Along the way, they encounter a xenophobic industrialist with a violent temperament, enlist the help of another young aspiring clown, and wrestle with the mischief of geriatric ex-carnies in a circus-themed retirement home.
From there, Space Circus develops along familiar lines, and it feels at every turn very much like an animated kids’ movie. Ivan Escalante’s art is cartoonish and emotive, closely resembling animation, and the dialogue is as tongue-in-cheek as you would expect. That isn’t a bad thing; it may make some people less interested in it, but really it’s no good reason to not give this book a shot, especially if you have kids with an interest in comics.
In many ways, Space Circus would be a more successful story if told in the medium – film – that its creators originally intended, but it’s also easy to make the case that releasing it as a comic helps it to stand out. In an environment where all-ages books aren’t exactly breaking sales records, this is a comic that manages to succeed in its own right, and while it may be derivative, it is an admirable piece of work that deserves to carve out a niche for itself.
Richard Rothstein, Stanley Resnicoff, Eric Hutchins, Matt Wanders (W), Ivan Escalante (A) • Viper Comics, $7.95. Coming Spring 2014.