REVIEW: Mister Amperduke

Life in Lego
by Bob Byrne (Clamnuts Comics)
Review by Ciaran Flanagan
Since the introduction of the first Graphic Novel (The Death of Captain Marvel for those who are keeping score), there has been much promised and little delivered in terms of innovation and new scope in the relatively young medium. Sure we’ve had Watchmen, and The Dark Knight Returns, and American Splendour, and all that good stuff, but those are essentially just reprints of comics. Alan Moore has made a few rumblings (in particular his recent League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier showed much flair), but what else has there been? For sure there have been great stories told (Fax From Sarajevo), and sure there are real world lessons to be expounded on (Maus), but when was the last time some played with the format? Where is the comic’s version of Catch 22 or Ulysses?
Bob Byrne is a Dublin based writer and artist who started out with his own self published books Mbleh and The Shiznit. He has recently gained more mainstream attention with his twisted tales in 2000ad, and with his latest self published work Mister Amperduke, he has done something very special.
Mister Amperduke is the simple tale of a sort of dog/man and his struggle assisting a Robocop style hero in protecting his tiny, sentient Lego utopia from being destroyed by an out of control Cloverfield style monster. Nothing unusual there. What is however unusual is the fact that not one single word of dialogue is used throughout the book. 2000 panels over 150 odd pages. And this is where the strength of Mr Amperduke lies. The (admittedly bizarre) plot is conveyed through the artwork alone and it’s done mostly through facial expression. Please bear in mind how extraordinary a feat this is, given that were not talking about super realistic . We’re talking about black and white pictures of a dog and the living Lego men he keeps in his basement. But these characters are real. They live and breathe. You care about what happens to them. And they’re expressive. So expressive, that it’s as if the story is being acted out by an army of 2d John Belushi’s.
If you could imagine a silent movie that was part Truman Show, part Godzilla, part philosophical quandary and part morality play, then you might begin to see the sort of thing I’m talking about.
Bob Byrne is carving quite a reputation for himself in the small press and independent comic’s field, and in Mister Amperduke he has delivered something really special. It’s impressive to see an Irish artist (especially one so young) pushing the envelope in such a fashion. Good luck following this one Bob.