Hey!  Hey, buddy!  Wanna see something really peculiar?

Your Major Spoilers (retro) review awaits!

SUMMARY

Pros
Absurdly brilliant.
Purcell’s art is a hoot.
Cons

I want to tell you all the jokes.
It’s not a 20-year-ongoing series.

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

READER RATING!

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (1 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)
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SMFPS1CoverSAM & MAX – FREELANCE POLICE SPECIAL #1
Writer: Steve Purcell
Artist: Steve Purcell
Colorist: Rick Taylor
Letterer: L. Lois Buhalis
Editor: Michael Eury
Publisher: Comico
Cover Price: $2.75
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $3.00

Previously in Sam & Max – Freelance Police:  Though the Freelance Police are known mostly as a multimedia franchise due to their video games and (admittedly short-lived) cartoon series, back in the 1980s, they started out in the pages of comic books, thanks to the brilliance of Steve Purcell (and his brother, who apparently created them and handed them off to Steve to play with.)  This episode (“Based on the famed Beat Generation novel, ‘Sam And Max Drive Around In A Car’ by Bucky Kerouac”) begins pretty much the same way all Sam & Max stories do: In a hail of gunfire, which is suddenly interrupted by a phone call!

SMFPS_04Newer or more inexperienced readers may be wondering what you need to know about the Freelance Police for this issue to make sense, and if you are among that group, I have good news: You don’t, it won’t, and it’s glorious.  As private detectives, Sam (he’s the dog) and Max (he’s the little rabbity-lookin’ thing) take their jobs VERY seriously, so much so that they might have nudged a teensy bit across the line of propriety and/or sanity…

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Take a moment, if you will, to examine the detail in each panel.  There’s hardly a nook or cranny of the issue that isn’t filled with some off-hand joke or bit of business, to the point where I’m kind of exhausted after reading it, and it’s hard for me to even break things down for our review purposes.  After the Commissioner mentions words like ‘overzealous,’ ‘brutal’ and ‘sadistic’ (“Ah, he was reading from our contract!”) the Freelance Police take his advice and set out for a little R&R…

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Encountering a crime in progress, (and, no, I don’t know what those lobsters are doing there) Sam bites the perpetrator (“I’ve never done that before.  I’m really embarrassed!”), leading to their road trip victuals being comped for their heroism by the thankful proprietor…

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Be aware:  I have assembled the awesome color wheel of junk food before, and it was wondrous.  Also, this book is probably at least partially responsible for the current obesity epidemic in America.  With provisions in hand, final preparations must be made!

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My wife will tell you, I use the “all the wheels are on and here are the keys” theory of driving on a regular basis, as will any mechanic between Kansas City and Denver.  Setting out onto the open road, our intrepid heroes set out to see America, and possibly buy up a few lacquered frog mariachi bands along the way.  A day or two into their trip (after a number of wonderful gags that it literally hurts me not to relate to you here), they encounter what Sam calls “another weird lizard farm up ahead!”

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Even in the badlands and on vacation, a dog and weird rabbity-lookin’ thing are still Police (albeit Freelance), and quickly engage the malefactors with the power…

…of SCIENCE!

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The leader of the biker gang (or, at least, the second guy) gets apprehended with equally unorthodox means…

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That sequence always makes me giggle like a pre-teen full of laughing gas (which is not a recommendation, by the way.)  As our stalwart heroes set off on their way once again, stopping only for fuel and sustenance, but when a Stuckey’s beckons, Max whines and wheedles that they have to stop for the legendary pecan log.  Sam refuses, and when pressed on the matter, begins to explain:  “I’m going to tell you something I’ve never told any rabbit, Max…”

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“That’s horrible, Sam.  Is it true?”  “Nah, I’m just yankin’ your chain, li’l pal.”

Sorry, I’m seriously crackin’ up over here.  I love that whole bit, and have occasionally appropriated “The Legend Of Stuckey’s” myself on various road trips.  (The Widget thought it was awesome on our last vacation.)  Later that night, Max dreams of the awful Auntie Alice leaping through the windshield to strangle him, starting awake in utter terror…

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Heh.  There’s nothing like a good shaggy dog story, especially one related by an actual shaggy dog.  Purcell’s jokes, but visual and dialogue related, simply don’t stop, and while humor is often in the eye of the beholder, the absurdity and brilliance of this issue are undeniable.  As their journey continues, full of sight gags, Sam & Max find the shell-shocked owner of a roadside attraction promising “The World’s Largest Prairie Dog” (“Whatsamatter, mister?  Seven-foot specter of evil come this way?”), they find that a band of road pirates has been attacking the various bizarre attractions found on the highway, abducting the Prairie Dog as well as others, including (eventually) the Freelance Police themselves…

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Having stolen the greatest oddities the world has to offer, the pirates have given up their lives of corporate drudgery to create “Captain Quasimodo’s Island Of Entertainment!”  Deciding to dip our heroes in brass for their latest attraction, the pirates have Sam & Max over a barrel, and all seems dark for our cartoon pals…

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“I was hoping something spontaneous but not-altogether-unexpected like this would happen.”  Heh.  Saved by cephalopods, Sam & Max return the world’s largest prairie dog and the various manatees to their rightful owners before heading home to The City.  Before they do that, though, they need a quick tune-up…

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While their cruiser is in for repairs, dog & bunny head off to the local mall for a “lame, swirling montage of the days events, or some such nonsense”, a sequence that leaves a smile on my face every time I’ve read it over the last 25 years, featuring Max trying to impress chicks by smoking only to be dragged away by Sam (“I think you were delirious.”)  Returning to the garage, the duo prepares to pick up their beloved DeSoto…

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Though they’re a tad short on cash, the Freelance Police do have a little bit of “stuff” that they believe might be worth their erstwhile mechanic’s time…

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Timing and delivery-wise, the entire issue has been non-stop gags, but Purcell knows when to slow down and deliver a nice old-school comic splash page moment, as well…

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Everyone has their favorites, their biases, their inexplicably beloved moments of pop-culture, and this issue is (and probably will always be) one of mine.  The jokes never stop coming, but they all land successfully, and even the weakest moments are still full of fun and lunacy.  There’s a two-page board game in the middle of the issue, as well as several one-page features, including an arts-and-crafts page wherein Sam teaches us how to make Max’s head (“A universal symbol of something-or-other”) out of a brown paper bag and glue in order to communicate with other cultures and/or kill time.  In short, Sam & Max – Freelance Police Special #1 is a full-speed, solid hit, delivering the fun non-stop and earning 5 out of 5 stars overall.

(I fully expect the comments section to have at least one “I didn’t find this funny at all blargen flargen blah blah blah” moment, and I have but one thing to ask of you, if you find yourself preparing to be a nay-sayer: Read the book.  You won’t regret it…)

Rating: ★★★★★

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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2 Comments

  1. September 15, 2013 at 1:50 pm — Reply

    I loved the whole Sam & Max series. I’ve never seen these pages in color though, which was a pleasant surprise. The cartoon was just as hilarious as the book too.

  2. September 15, 2013 at 3:16 pm — Reply

    My first introduction to Sam and Max was through the Lucasarts adventure game ‘Sam and Max Hit the Road’

    I should really pick up the collection.

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