Snelson is the newest, and possibly most distinct, comic from AHOY. Unlike AHOY’s other more fantastical stories, Snelson is a grounded book about a has been. Titular character Melville Snelson was your typical ‘90s comedian; edgy and crass. But it’s not the ‘90s anymore, and Snelson just comes across as offensive and boring. In a bid to stay relevant, he embarks on a tour filled with “SJWs”. Will Snelson make a comeback or is he well and truly canceled? Join writer Paul Constant and artist Fred Harper as they mock the “dying breath of the entitled white male toxicity.”
Snelson #1 is one of those comics with a synopsis that makes you double take. A canceled comedian on a comeback tour? Decades of comic books have conditioned us as readers to assume there’s secretly something more to Melville Snelson as a character. Is he secretly a superhero? No. But he has powers of some kind right? No. He’s just an asshole? Pretty much. Constant and Harper are onto something here, and they might have a lot to say.
As a ‘realistic’ comic book, Snelson covers a lot of ground. The titular character is borderline insufferable because readers understand exactly who he is. Anyone that’s used the internet in the last six or so years can recognize Snelson. Pinning the series around a protagonist that’s so unlikable is admirable. In the coming months it’ll be interesting to see where the book goes, because right now it’s likely readers will just want to punch Snelson.
It’s a strange book, not in the psychedelic weird way, but in its normality. There’s been plenty of non-superhero or SFF comics before, but a comic book about an edgy comedian? And yet each page keeps turning itself. Constant’s script pulls readers in. Even if you hate Snelson, you want to see what he does next.
Ironically, his “SJW” touring buddies come across a bit like stereotypes (although we see them from Snelson’s view mostly) but they really elevate the book. Snelson tours with them so people go to his shows and the way they’re shown on the page always tells its own story. Quickly these characters become people much in the same way Snelson is recognizable. While they’re limited to the background, the stories told behind Snelson are typically just as interesting and goes a long way to hammer home some of the points of the book.
Praise can’t be given without mentioning Fred Harper’s artwork. Its cartoonish realism counters the grounded nature of the story. Features are caricatured, actions are amplified. It gives the book another layer of sophistication. Make no mistake, Snelson is an adult comic, and Harper’s artwork goes a long way to ensure you understand that. One particularly filthy splash page might just have you rushing into the shower.
It feels wrong to complain about anything in a book like Snelson. It’s trying so many things, especially things you don’t see often in comics. At their virtual comic con panel, Constant said the series was a “response to alt-comics of the ‘90s with protagonists who all act terribly.” If that was the intention, then the book is pretty spot on, but there were large stretches of the book that echoed those alt-comics and that can go both ways for readers. Snelson is violent, sexual and filthy. It almost revels in how disgusting it can be. That’s not for everyone. Having such an unlikable protagonist isn’t for everyone. At no point does the book even suggest Snelson is in the right, but still, basing the story around him might still not be everyone’s cup of tea.
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