Review by Frank Plowright
Templar in Arizona is a place like no other, almost like our world, but not quite, with the cast mentioning numerous strangely named organisations, processes, needs and events, very few of which we actually see. The majority of the The Great Outdoors was concerned with introducing the residents of an apartment block, starting with the unassuming Benjamin, who’s left home, talks with a therapist and needs some form of medication. That was all mentioned in the closing pages, as the remainder was his long conversation with wild neighbour Reagan. We also met another neighbour, Scip, who combines spiritual teaching with a career as a bodyguard, his sulky teenage room-mate Pippi, Reagan’s daughter Zoya, and her estranged father Gene, rather the wastepail.
The Mob Goes Wild begins with the focus away from the apartment block, showing a social activist lecturing to a crowd about the lack of investment in their part of the city, and one of his followers explaining the good his organisation does. That’s followed by the TV announcement of a judgement. It seems creator Spike has worked out the nuts and bolts of how Templar operates, and feeds that information in small doses, such as tunnels being free at weekends, and sometimes just visually. It makes for a more satisfying experience, as does her moving the plot forward this time.
Greater variety to the viewpoints would improve Templar, Arizona no end, but Spike is a fine cartoonist, bringing out the personality of her cast. This is also via the dialogue, the sample page showing Ben starting to live a little dangerously, heading out despite his face being stained with a dye police use to identify people disrupting a meeting.
As before, conversations monopolise, and Spike must have someone in mind when she writes Reagan’s dialogue, which is a constant freewheeling satisfaction laced with copious swearing. A joy here is the delight she takes in examining the new shipment of sex aids and videos arriving at the store she manages. Sex is high on the conversational agenda, and not in a coy sniggering way. There’s an acceptance that people have sex, and most people enjoy it and want more, but this isn’t accompanied by exploitative images. For all the fun, though, there are some serious issues running in the background. New character Curio is introduced applying make up to cover a black eye, all-but forgotten when she hits on Ben eighty pages later.
Spike closes with an interlude introducing new, but not as interesting, characters who pick up something discarded in the main story. The Mob Goes Wild is a better outing for us knowing the primary cast, enabling Spike to expand on them to introduce even more likeable eccentrics. The series is now on its way, so climb on for the ride, which continues with And a Stick to Beat the Devil With.