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The Holo. Brothers: Curse of the Bloated Toad. By Jim Rohn. Westlake Village, CA: Fantagraphics Books, 1986-1988. 91p. $8.95. ISBN 0-930193-36-9.

Science fiction

Adults, teens, older kids; mild violence, very mild profanity.

From the good ol' days of the Black-and-White Revolution comes this little book, which collects the Holo(gram) Brothers' comic that appeared in issues of Threat! In some far future time, the machines on Homeworld (apparently the seat of government for the galactic civilization) are powered by radioactive jewels. The only jewel left is stolen by the Holo. Brothers, Max (who looks like a troll), Jerry (a turtleman), and Larry (maybe a horseman). They are accompanied by Tequila Mockingbird, an android bird with a Spanish accent.

As Max attempts to fence the jewel at a bar, he is confronted by Herr Franz Lippman, a catman, who had teamed up with them to steal the jewel but who they had abandoned as they escaped the palace guards. In the barroom brawl that ensues, Max is injured and loses the jewel to Herr Lippman. The three Brothers scamper for their lives, hotwiring a space ship to escape the planet. On the way, they discover Kevin, a young human man stowed away on the ship, who says that he was a janitor at the palace and left when the jewel was stolen, for fear he would be accused of the theft. Chased by other spacecraft, the Holo. Brothers crashland their ship on Homeworld's moon.

Meanwhile, at the palace, the dying Emperor is attended by Gekkus, "Administrative Assistant to the Emperor" [all admin. assist. jobs should be so good!], who has designs on the throne. Rather than search for the emperor's missing son and heir, he starts taking control. He retrieves the jewel from Herr Lippman and orders the catman to investigate the crash to make sure everyone is dead.

Of course, the Brothers are not dead but exploring the jungly moon. They are promptly captured by Bush Toads, who prepare to sacrifice them to their god, the Bloated Toad, but are stopped by Kevin, who reveals himself to be the emperor's son. He explains that the radioactive gems come from this moon, and if he retrieves more gems he will prevent Gekkus from taking over. Of course, simply carting the gems away from the Temple of the Bloated Toad isn't going to be so easy when Herr Lippman and his cronies show up; and even when the Holo. Brothers manage to defeat him and fly back to Homeworld, they discover that they're wanted for kidnapping and treason, and Kevin is accused of the murder of his father. Desperate to prevent Gekkus's coronation, they disguise themselves as waiters and sneak into the celebration. But when Kevin is killed, what chance do the Brothers have to prevail?

Titles like this illustrate some of the pitfalls of being a writer/artist. The pencil art is lively, expressive, and fun to look at up close, because it's very detailed. Especially nice is the sequence when the Brothers are fed hallucinogens by the Bush Toads to prepare them for sacrifice. The story is another matter. It's not horrible, but it has a lot of holes and weak moments when the action comes to a halt while some back story has to be provided in order for the action to make sense. For example, how did the Brothers, Kevin, and Tequila survive the crash-landing? Why does the idol guarding the radioactive jewels come to life? At least the Holo. Brothers and Tequila are interesting, though Kevin is fairly bland and Gekkus is pure 1-D comics villain--and dammit, why did he have to die by being struck by a bolt of lightning while holding up the jewel? Geez, how many times have we seen something like that?

Rohn viewed the Holo. Brothers as "a unique ... blend of disparate influences--space opera, vaudeville, art deco, and a smart-ass mentality." That's a reasonable description, though the space opera and art deco outweight the other elements. There's not enough smart-ass mentality to make the book stand out from every other mildly smart-ass piece of SF/fantasy I've seen in the last 20 years, and the vaudeville apparently refers to the slightly inept fighting that takes place from time to time. I think maybe the Holo. Brothers were supposed to have a faint echo of the Three Stooges, but they're too competent in many ways and not slapstick enough. And that's what relegates the book to mere better-than-average status. Get this book for the art and for comprehensive collections of 1980s titles. It's out of print but available through at least one online vendor.

Copyright 2000, D. Aviva Rothschild


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