Written by: Joshua Fialkov
Art by: Tony Fleecs
Publisher: Oni Press
I really didn’t know what to expect when Jeff Steinberg: Champion of Earth showed up in my inbox. I was told to check it out because Tony Fleecs works on My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, but other than that, the two are polar opposites. Well, they are both comedies, so maybe not that far apart. They also have colons in their titles. And I do like both quite a bit, so…well darn.
Our plot is going to be a little hard to explain without hitting spoilers because this is a comedy comic, and I don’t want to ruin any jokes. Let’s say the TL;DR version is that Jeff Steinberg is one of the most average people on the planet save his intellect, which is much lower than average. Due to a stupid bet, he’s wound up being elected the champion of Earth by a group of aliens who are about as stupid as he is. If Jeff loses, the Earth is done for.
Or to put it in an X meets Y format: JS:CoE is like Idiocracy meets Independence Day meets the “Get Schwifty” episode of Rick and Morty.
That is high praise my friends. High praise.
The problem with low-brow humor is that it’s really, really hit-or-miss for me. I imagine I’m not the only one who feels that way. A well-constructed poop joke can have me laughing like I’m six, but a poorly constructed one will have scowling like the most curmudgeon adult. In the case of this comic, most of the jokes are well constructed. I found myself laughing a lot, with only the occasional dud to remind me I’m pretentious and shouldn’t find such low-brow humor amusing.
I suppose it comes down to tone. This comic hits exactly what it wants to do perfectly, from the sheer stupidity of everyone involved—included Barack Obama himself who’s a major highlight—to the sad, sweetness that is Jeff Steinberg. He’s stupid, and his life sucks, and, well, I feel for him. He’s like if Spongebob Squarepants were a bit more self aware about his life.
JS:CoE #1 is a pretty big issue, clocking in at fifty pages. That’s a good thing though, because it uses all that page space, giving us a comic that’s perfectly paced. The jokes have room to breathe, the characters have room to be fleshed out without being over explained, and Barack Obama has time to steal the show.
On the art front, it’s kind of funny; I don’t actually care for Tony Fleecs’ work on MLP:FiM. He doesn’t quite nail the style of Equestria, but here, he’s at the top of his game. I love the way the characters look on both a design and a facial expression level. There’s just a lot to enjoy everywhere you look. The aliens are half cute/half strange, and I like that their technology is fun to look at while also not being overly dangerous in construction. It all fits together well, and I’d say Tony is the perfect artist for this comic.
My only complaint is that some of the word bubbles are oddly placed, making some panels harder to follow than others. I don’t know think that’s on Tony though.
I didn’t know what to expect going into this comic, but I came away a fan. There’s a ton of fun here, and if you can stomach some low-brow humor and a handful of obvious jokes that you’ve seen before, then there’s a lot to love. There’s a great cast of characters placed in a fun plot, and while I have a few inklings on where this will eventually head, I’m excited to ride that ride.