Stanley and his Monster #4 (May, 1993)
Writer & Penciller – Phil Foglio
Inker – Chuck Fiala
Letterer – John Costanza
Colorist – Robbie Busch
Editor – Paul Kupperberg
Cover Price: $1.50
Fresh off our cliffhanger, Stanley and Company are joined by our old friend the (Phantom) Stranger. I don’t think they ever call him “Phantom Stranger”, he’s just “The Stranger” here… which, for better or worse, opens us up to Stanley commenting that he’s “not allowed to talk to strangers”. Nyuk nyuk.
The Dovers really don’t dig the idea of the Stranger sending their little boy to Hell in order to rescue their pet demon. The Stranger zaps them with a spell of serenity, which frees the lad up for the trip.
The Stranger readies the Seal of Cloon (which is an actual, Seal… like the horn-honking-at-the-aquarium variety. Bierce appears to be setting Stanley up to wind up in what the Stranger called a “Causality Loop”. Stanley packs for the voyage… bringing a very specific wagon-full of stuffs. He’s loaded up with a demon mask, a package of hot dogs, a two-liter of soda, an umbrella, and a jar of Bar-B-Q sauce… I wonder why he chose those items…
|Well there Stanley, that’s a mighty specific wagon-load…|
After a wild, Max Headroom-esque inter-dimensional Seal-trek, Bierce and the Boy arrive at the (flaming and demonic) gates of hell. Bierce tells Stanley that he’s on his own from this point on… and advises him that Hell is “exactly what he thinks it is”, like, as in he can affect the way Hell looks and operates. I gotta wonder if John Byrne cribbed this bit for Lab Rats?
Stanley saunters in, and decides that Hell should look like a Saturday Morning cartoon show. He is approached by an adorable hellfiend, who asks what his business is… to which, Stanley dons his demon Halloween mask. It’s good enough for the hell-fiend, who points the boy in the direction of his Monster. Well, there’s one item down.
Stanley and his Monster are reunited (and it feels so…, nah). As they catch up, a tiny yellow pitchfork wielding devil enters. He’s all but ready to blow the whistle on the caper, when Stanley offers him… well, hot dogs (there’s two). Stanley impales the weiner on the demon’s horn (wait, what?), and watches as the beast chases it carrot-on-a-stick-style off a nearby cliff.
Stanley and his Monster decide to blow this Popsicle stand, and head toward the conveniently-marked exit. As they leave, they are confronted by our weenie-eating demon and his two-flaming companions. Stanley tricks the devil into summoning a rainstorm, extinguishing the burning-beasties… oh, yeah… it’s a good thing Stanley remembered his umbrella! There’s three.
The frankfurter-fiend, none too pleased with this turn of events grows to tremendous size… why wouldn’t he just always be that big? Luckily, Stanley’s wagon is perfect for giving the demon the ol’ slip… back off the cliff… presumably into a pool of flames. Stanley’s pretty hardcore.
Off in the distance the boys spy what the Monster refers to as a Punishment Node. They crack that orb open, only to find the Monsters former-flame/fling, Miss Nyx. She believes the boys to be a figment of her imagination, however, thanks to Stanleys cold (cold? still?) soda, she snaps back to reality. The next… hundred or so pages, is a discussion between Nyx and the Monster over whether or not she should be “good”, or if he could teach her how to be “good”, or what it means to be “good”…
|Hey, Nyx is back…|
Thankfully, Cerberus bursts into the scene… along with that same little yellow demon? Really, again? Okay. This time, he summons worms from the ground to entangle young Stanley… and then proceeds to wrap his tongue around Nyx’s thigh… No really. To which, she dumps our last remaining item, the Bar-B-Q sauce all over the naughty imp… which attracts the carnivorous grill-fan, Cerberus.
|Yeah… still no CCA Code here|
Finally, we’re on our way out, when… oh, c’mon… the two angels are back. They allow the Monster to plead his case… and, well… they let him go. How about that? Nyx must stay behind, but really… who wanted her to come back anyway?
|For your viewing/reading enjoyment…
The only chuckle this book gave me.
Back at casa Stanley. everything’s back to (the new) normal. Stanley’s allowed to keep his Monster, and they all live happily ever after.
I suppose this wrapped up as best it could given the set-up. When I first read the opening chapter of this four-part tale, I figured it would be a fun romp with a boy and his beast. I did not, even for a moment, consider that there would be an actual story in here… and, I sorta kinda wish there wasn’t. The deeper we went into the Hell story, the less interest I had. The more panel time given to Ambrose Bierce, the less I liked him. When he first showed up in the second chapter, it was a novelty. He was mistaken for John Constantine, and it was a cute gag. I didn’t expect him to be back, and to play such a large part overall.
The writing insofar as the dialogue was still a bright point. The art, well… I mentioned all throughout my review series that Phil Foglio art is not normally my cup of tea. For the first two issues, I really rather liked it. The second half, however, felt much looser… and seemed to rely more on cartoony elements than just cartoon-ish elements (if that makes even a lick of sense).
Mildly disappointing overall, especially coming off the fun-high of the first issue. I would have been much more interested (and likely entertained) by Stanley and his Monster exploring more Heterodyne Boys inventions. That first issue just had so much heart to it… that sadly did not survive the remaining chapters.
Is it worth checking out? I guess. It’s not gonna knock yer socks off or anything, but when it comes to a silly story you can do far worse. Am I glad I’m done with it? Heavens yes… Not that I aggressively disliked the series, but the joke kinda played itself out with about 40 pages to go.
|At least Burt didn’t have to team with a dog…
That was a 90s movie thing too, right?
|Rocky D. died on the way back to his home planet.|
|Imagine a pipe-smoking good guy in a cartoon these days?|
|Great Superman story from just months before Doomsday…
but not Doomsday’s first appearance… friggin’ Wizard