Review by Ian Keogh
They call themselves the Luchadores Five, as they try to make the neighbourhood a better place by hanging out, looking for trouble, and settling it in their Mexican wrestler masks, the deluded fools. Outside their own gang, there’s absolutely zero respect. The fellow citizens of their East LA neighbourhood regularly ridicule them, their enemies are routinely able to rip off their car stereos and they’re as likely to be arrested as actually help anyone out. Diablo Loco, El Gladiator, King Karateka, Dr Pantera and Red Demon are unlikely heroes in any case, some married, some overweight, none in the first flush of young adulthood and some even unable to fight.
The combined translations of three French albums are available in this hardcover, and Jerry Frissen’s plot for the first involves an Elvis impersonator wanting to take over the city, a gang of werewolves, a dinosaur on the loose, a trio of suited French crimefighters and a pair of inept aliens. It’s the kind of lunacy John Wagner and Alan Grant used to stitch together for 2000AD back in the day, but doesn’t have the discipline they applied. It comes across as Frissen throwing together anything he thought would look cool when illustrated by Bill (Benoît Boucher), which, to be fair, would cover pretty well everything. Bill’s got a loose cartooning style and really packs his panels with the background detail needed to convince that these guys in wrestling masks exist in a credible environment. He’s also good with the cast, giving each of the five a distinctive enough body structure that you’d recognise them without masks.
The collaboration gels far better on the second tale. This has a plot rather than ideas thrown together, and while there’s still a place for whimsical diversions, it’s stronger material. The Luchadores Five are splitting up, the Creatures from the Black Leather Lagoon are causing trouble, and a gang formed of now decrepit one-time action movie stars has a part to play. The jokes are improved, the creators come up with the wonderful sea turtle, and there’s far more in the way of personality development, with Suzy, Dr Pantera’s disgruntled wife a great addition. Also of relevance is that this tale spreads over what was originally two French albums, so the assorted story elements have room to breathe.
Unfabulous Five is a lot of fun with great art, and a sympathetic cast any bloke can relate to. Nice one.