I have read very strange literature in my life, and Johnny the Homicidal Maniac (known as JTHM from here on out) probably takes the cake. It’s not the liberal use of profane language, not the blood and guts, but the way everything is put together; it’s all of these elements that make a special formula. Johnan Vasquez is a brilliant writer and artist, Invader Zim is one of my favorite shows of all time. The clever writing, excellent characters, and amazing art style all blend together to make a tasty morsel of a show. JTHM is one of Vasquez’s first outings from the late 90s and all I can say is be prepared.
Johnny is an angsty teenage boy who lives on his own, somehow, and gets away with murdering people, somehow, and quite enjoys it. He has a superiority complex and Vasquez regularly mocks various stereotypes such as goths, emos, hipsters, and overall teenage hormones. Whether Johnny is a reflection of Vasquez himself is a mystery, but one can’t help but wonder. The seven-series comic is broken up into mini-short stories that are about 3 pages long. These tell an overarching story, but not day by day like most other comics. We see Johnny struggle with being truly happy, and sometimes you might think he’s finally a good guy until it falls apart at the last minute; every single time.
Johnny’s insanity is made apparent tenfold by his rants. That’s what this comic is all about; rants about how these characters are better than everyone else. Johnny loves punishing people for making fun of him and torturing them in the vein of Saw (before Saw was around of course). Despite the entertaining gore value and insane language, I felt the story didn’t really develop much and it became a chore towards the end to finish. It was the same rants of superiority in every comic and it got tiring after a while.
That’s not the only thing that became tiring. There are two short stories told in between each of the JTHM shorts. Wobbly Headed Bob tells of a creature who also has a superiority complex and drives other creatures to suicide. It’s entertaining but easily forgettable. The second short is a comic that Johnny writes called Noodle Boy. It was funny at first as the similies and metaphors are so insane, and make no sense, that it keeps you reading. However, towards the end of the series, it just became mundane and I skipped the last few. I also understand that the typeface is Vasquez’s signature style, but it got tiring to read and some words were illegible, it also gave me a headache against the white paper and black ink. This is an awful typeface and I hope to never see it again.
Overall, JTHM is an entertaining foray into Johnan Vasquez’s crazy mind, and Invader Zim fans will dig the origins that inspired the series, but with no real plot development or character advancement, this series overstays its welcome after issue four.