Review by Frank Plowright
When originally published as a comic in the late 1980s, the first chapter here was a decent parody, appropriating the structure of Frank Miller’s then fresh The Dark Knight Returns to produce a loose satire of that and the wave of poor quality comics appearing in the wake of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Alas time hasn’t been kind to Mark Martin’s scattershot parody, which decades removed from the newsworthiness of its source renders it rather a head scratching, surreal shaggy dog story.
The second chapter, ‘Happy Birthday Gnatrat’ stands the test of time far better, although is more a loosely connected series of gags than any linear plot. Martin delivers Gnatrat’s origin in the style of Bob Kane, but sadly missing are other elements from the original comic publication including a funny introduction from “Trueman” Capote.
Despite an accomplished pastiche of Bill Sienkiewicz’s then ground-breaking style and a Krazy Kat interlude, the Tadpole chapter is every bit as confusing as the Elektra Assassin book on which it’s based. The Darerat chapter parodying Miller’s 1980s Daredevil is wafer thin, but better than its predecessor’s surreal incoherence.
The one consistent delight is Martin’s astounding cartooning, deft, fluid and every bit the equal of the artists parodied. The collection is rounded out with some sketches and illustrations, and Martin’s two page strip detailing how he was caught out by the very boom and bust cycle he parodies in the first chapter. Despite the title, Martin’s 1990 Gnatrat: The Movie isn’t included here
Martin has kept himself amused over the years by adding hilarious comments to this publication’s Amazon page, first under his own name, and then via assorted aliases.