Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Johnny Ryan's, "FATCOP," is Absurd, Grotesque, and Quite Funny

I run hot and cold on Johnny Ryan. When you read a comic by him you're going to get a lot of jokes involving body fluids, sex, violence, and sometimes all three at the same time. The thing with Ryan is he manages to be outlandishly clever a good deal of the time when he's being outrageous, and that results in some entertaining works! After all, "Prison Pit," is disgusting but it is also a fun read. There are times when Johnny Ryan is simply trying to shock readers, however, and those are occasions where his work falls flat (for me at least). Ryan's last long-form comic was the aforementioned, "Prison Pit," until now with the one-word and all-caps, "FATCOP."

"FATCOP," follows a rather large man who is a police officer. His name is Fat Cop. The big hardcover book starts out seeming like it is just going to be little vignettes of Fat Cop being a terrible person in between meals. He abuses his power and only ends up doing any good by accident. This is not due to the fact he is a police officer, however. Everyone in the comic is horrible. Almost all the characters are prone to violence, sexual violence, self-harm, spreading their own feces everywhere, and so forth. Anyone who isn't visibly awful winds up dead because this is a Johnny Ryan comic. 

Ryan's comics are full of nasty stuff but there are enough weird and clever touches that his material somehow elevates itself beyond just being shock-for-shock's sake (usually, at least). Little surreal moments like a pile of garbage coming alive and demanding Fat Cop has sex with it (until a nuclear explosion occurs at the moment of his climax) or a running gag about Trader Joe's having a whole sex dungeon set up under the store--run by a towering and murderous albino fellow no less--are delightfully strange. There are self-aware winks as always too. One quiet moment comes to mind where Fat Cop's new partner (actually hired to annoy Fat Cop until he quits) observes Fat Cop is a lot like a lady who was on, "Flavor of Love," that randomly, "Shit on the floor," and gave no reason other than she needed to poop. There is no logic or reason, just unpredictable actions at unpredictable moments.

"FATCOP," and its plot also is a bit undecipherable. There are hints of some grand conspiracy with shadowy figures and a, "Corporation," that involves everything from Trader Joe's to corrupt police, but a lot of random digressions occur in the comic (Ryan loves to spend time on those sudden scatological moments or long segments of graphic sex) to the point where a lot of ideas or directions for the story arise but end-up falling by the wayside with little explanation. What is the, "Corporation," and who are the shadowy figures? Why did the Chief of Police hire her husband as a new officer to get Fat Cop to quit and did it relate to a big conspiracy? Many questions are raised but few are answered, which is a bit irritating as the book ends with somewhat of an anticlimax that gives some characters their due desserts but leaves us readers scratching our head about if Ryan wanted to tell a clever story while giving us gross-out humor, or he simply wanted to use a framework of a story as an excuse for the nasty jokes. Either one is okay, but if, "FATCOP," expects me to be invested in its story as well as laughing at the raunchy humor, it should deliver on both fronts. If the story is ancillary to all the dirty stuff, make that clear then--it is all I request.

Grumbles about an unclear story aside, "FATCOP," is a rambunctious read. Ryan's a superb cartoonist and whether he's drawing a startingly detailed garbage dump or beads of sweat dripping off an exhausted Fat Cop when he's forced into a situation with running, Ryan makes even the grossest illustrations shine. Not many comic creators can make diarrhea shooting out of a rear-end look good to the degree Ryan somehow does--the man's got a twisted gift. Ryan's style of storytelling and artwork makes it so that I absolutely cannot recommend his works to anyone with sensitivities to content that can cause offense. Ryan wants to be disgusting and make readers uncomfortable. If you are the kind of person who can chuckle at some of the most outrageous content from a pen being put to paper, however, Johnny Ryan's comics tend to be a fun time. "FATCOP," is a ribald read for sure, and some quibbles about an unfocused plot aside, I enjoyed it a great deal. As long as you know what you're getting into with, "FATCOP," you may dig it too.

4.5 out of 5 stars.

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