Plastron Cafe #4, June 1993, Mirage Publishing
contributors: Tom Stazer, Mary Kelleher, Kevin Eastman, Rick Vietch, Anthony Smith, Eric Vincent, Mary Kelleher, A.C. Farley
To celebrate the critical role coffee shops and cafes have played in the implementation of A Comic A Day -- I posted my first review from a Dietrich's in downtown Orange, California, and about 30% of my entries have been logged from coffee shops around Orange County -- I picked up Plastron Cafe, assuming from its title that this series would feature science fiction stories centered on or around a coffee shop. I guess I should stick to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy for that motif. Instead, Plastron Cafe, from co-creator of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Kevin Eastman, is a general anthology of short science fiction stories sans caffiene, with a faux menu on the instead front cover outlining the "entrees" readers could find inside. Usually, the name of a comic book refers to its characters or stories, but to title a series based solely on a vague format motif is a bold and oddly appealing idea, at least to me. The implication is, while some folks frequent cafes for the coffee, others prefer the smoothies or fancy sandwiches. You know, different strokes for different folks. The presumption is, of the four shorts in this issue, everybody should like at least one of them.
Fortunately, the second story in this collection features Casey Jones, and I don't care who you are, everybody has a soft spot for Casey Jones. April O'Neil may always be the Ninja Turtles' first love from the human race, but Casey is their guilty pleasure, the urban id that enables them to embrace their inherent, flgarant masculinity, even if they are reptilian by nature. Eastman uses Cafe to share some of Casey's solo adventures; in this case, Casey is infiltrating a cult of alien lobsters-turned-humans trying to lift their terrestial curse. Their criminal activities aren't his primary motivation, though; apparently, one of them stole his mask. Good old Casey. Unfortunately, this chapter precedes the real action-packed climax, but as an old fan, I was just as satisfied watching Casey getting ready to rumble, as he fashions an armor from a fallen crustacean's shell. Two good lines: When Casey's bikini-clad guide shows him the lobster carcass and wonders if the sight shocks him, Jones replies, "Actually, some of my best friends are mutants." Then, when he makes his helmet from one of the beast's claws, he muses, "When you've been street-fighting as long as I have, you look for the potential in every day objects." Well put. Casey Jones. The youth of America's first official bad ass.
The other tales on the Plastron's menu aren't as meaty, but some go down pretty smoothly. The first story, "Spaced," is about a spaceship's motley crew, and in this case, their attempt to capture an alien blob stowaway. Aside from the bombshell's public romance with the crew's resident gray alien, the most notable aspect of this yarn is the Wolverine rip-off character aptly named Snikt. The "wings" of hair protruding from his mohawk, and his wonton violent attitude, establish him as a shallow and ultimately pointless spoof, and I wonder why the authors chose to incorporate him in an otherwise Star Trek-esque satire. (When the blob flees into the ventilation shaft, someone remarks, "They always do. You'd think by now the engineers would start making them smaller." Good point.) Still, "Spaced" was a good choice for this issue's first story slot, as I quickly understood what kind of anthology was ahead: a decently humored science fiction romp.
With the exception of "Alien Fire." Starring Xinta, "the alien trapped in Ed's mind," this abstract story started strongly enough, establishing that this Zoidburg-from-Futurama looking alien was traversing the pop culture riddled mindscape of some aimless human host. The image of a Marilyn Monroe-turned-Statue of Liberty was actually quite poignant in its own way, but perhaps in an effort to mirror real life, when the creators recreate the Beatles' first appearance on Sullivan, things get confusing. The imagery becomes more convulted, and I wonder if the effort was more linear than I thought in the context of previous installments. On this Cafe's menu, "Alien Fire" was the initially tasty treat that betrays itself with a bitter aftertaste.
"Bioneers," the last story billed as a preview but just as long as the others," stars a bestial humanoid akin to television's Beauty and the Beast trying to acquaint himself at a science fiction convention, where a borderline delusional role-playing girl has attached herself under the pretense that his gharish appearance is a well-crafted costume. When their kiss reveals his true nature, security tries to place the beast in custody, but he effortlessly bests them and flees. A melancholy permeates this tale, and understandably so, as the creature undoubtedly senses a shallow acceptance in the midst of the convention, yet a fearful rejection when his real identity is revealed. So mankind can dress up like and pretend to be mythological beings, but they cannot accept one in real life? With a title like "Bioneers," I wonder if this series of shorts treads ground on these perplexing paradigms of geek culture.
So, does Plastron Cafe offer a tasty treat for every patron that strolls through its proverbial door? The problem is, while customers walking into a cafe generally know what they're getting into, a comic book so vaguely titled is more of a gamble. With Eastman's name attached, I was assured to find something I'd like. As a comic book barista, his reputation precedes him. Still, unlike Dietrich's, which recently folded to a Starbucks buy-out, would I frequent this Cafe again if another competed across the street? Depends on its blends, I guess.