Samantha Locklear is dealing with things as best as she can. And she does have a lot of things to deal with. A former marine who served three tours of duty, she’s suffering from PTSD and multiple medical problems after being held as a POW for almost a year. And then there’s the mysterious lights in the sky, and a businessman who has an obsession with those lights and who’s looking to buy up all the property in the area, whether the owners want to sell or not.
Fortunately Sam’s got a job she’s very good at (mechanic in a desert scrapyard), and a very understanding boss who’s not at all intimidated by pushy businessmen. Oh, and there’s also Sam’s best friend in the world, a 600-pound talking gorilla named Mike.
Mike, as you’ve probably guessed, is completely imaginary. What’s interesting is that Sam knows this.
Even more interesting? I’m pretty sure Mike knows it too.
I’ve been a fan of Terry Moore’s work since his Strangers in Paradise days, and the artwork here is everything I love about his style. There’s beautifully detailed line-art closeups of the characters, alternating with quick sketches or even doodles that somehow manage to convey so much expression with a couple of dots and a line. Terry Moore excels at expressions: bewilderment, angry yelling, pure irritation (the way he does irritation makes me laugh every time). And in addition to human expressions, we’ve also got the dry sense of humor from a gorilla, and terrified beeping from a handful of pint-sized aliens.
Did I forget to mention the aliens? They don’t seem terribly bright; Sam meets them when they crash their spaceship in her junkyard. God only knows how they would have taken off again if there hadn’t been a mechanic on hand who was a little more bemused than scared by the appearance of life from another planet.
So the aliens make for a cute interlude. The storyline about the businessman and the technology he’s developed to deal with UFO’s hasn’t quite gotten off the ground (ha, see what I did there?), but it’s helped by the fact that, for his plot to intimidate Sam and her boss Libby into selling the junkyard, he’s hired the two worst hitmen on the planet. Seriously, these guys are hilariously bad, and Sam’s reaction to them just kills me. Two would-be toughs up against a decorated veteran; it’s not even a close contest, and getting to see Sam knock some sense into someone is amazingly satisfying to watch.
But the real draw for this book isn’t the alien story, it’s the interaction between Sam and Mike, and their ongoing debates and arguments. Don’t expect a lot of awkwardness with people wondering why Samantha is talking no one; it’s made clear that Sam doesn’t talk to Mike out loud when other people are around. Well okay, Libby does see Sam having a one-sided shouted argument about jazz musician Charlie Parker (lordy, I loved the argument about Charlie Parker), but she thinks Sam’s just been out in the 114 degree desert heat too long. Or that it’s another side-effect from head-trauma, which is probably closer to the truth.
That said, Mike is very very real for Sam. Mike was what got her through her experiences as a prisoner of war. We get to see in a flashback what may be one of the first times Mike made his presence known. It was just a few panels, but it still gave me chills. Mike is earthy, smart-alek, ready to call Sam on anything he sees as bullshit, and he would absolutely give his life to keep her safe. And don’t dismiss it by saying that Mike’s a projection of Sam’s subconscious need for protection blah blah blah. If you don’t think you can feel sympathy for a 600-pound gorilla who’s worried to the point of despair when his best friend is keeling over from a headache, then you haven’t taken a look at this book.
I feel like that’s going to be the main drama for this title going forward. Samantha really does have some serious neural damage, and there’s a chance she’s been putting off trying to get it fixed because that might mean losing Mike. And Moore has written his character so well that I’m very sure there’s no way Mike’s going to let Sam risk her life just to keep him around.