Todd the Ugliest Kid on Earth is the latest launch issue from Image comics. While Image has had a streak of high-profile and well-reviewed comics over the past year, Todd may be the book which ends that streak.
This series, a collision of comedy, sex, and violence, follows the misadventures of America’s most dysfunctional family as they go head-to-severed head with an Oprah-loving ax murderer, a cult-crazy soap opera star, and a neo-Nazi prison gang.
First issue: Todd wants desperately to make friends, but every kid he approaches winds up decapitated. Or worse. Meanwhile, Todd’s mother is on a mission to get even with her husband who she believes is having an affair.
The titular character is a young boy who spends all of his life with a bag over his head because he is just so ugly. It is commonly accepted in the town in which he lives that Todd is to be treated like a pariah and be the subject of abuse and derision by everyone, including his family. What little the reader can find out about Todd, he seems to be just an ordinary kid who happens to be ugly. He has difficulty making friends, he is misunderstood by his parents and schoolmates, and he has a fascination with butterflies.
While it would be easy to empathize with Todd, writer Ken Kristensen chooses to continue piling on the drama by making Todd the most pathetic person on earth. He becomes the victim of bullying by everyone, including his family, he is unable to make friends, and it now appears that he is going to be blamed for a crime that he did not commit. What else could possibly go wrong?
The mistake Kristensen makes is that he has gone too far with the farce. The reader already empathized with Todd without having to have everything piled up on him. But now that there is absolutely nothing Todd can do the reader is is faced with pretty much having to give up on the kid. He is so ugly he cannot even be killed by a serial killer. Kristensen established that no one believes anything Todd says or does, so how is he going to get himself out of trouble without breaking the already established parameters of his existence?
If the writing overplays the farce, then artist M.K. Perker nails it just right. the book opens with a little girl playing with dolls. The dolls are cute and bubbly in a Barbie-ish way. This is contrasted with the ugliness of the girl who is playing with them. Her head is too big, her mouth too wide, and she has two buck teeth. So, who is she (or anyone forthat matter) to be judging the attractiveness of another person.
In fact, all of the characters in the book are ugly. They are ugly in and out, making Todd stand out even more because he is the only one who is just ugly on the outside. It could be that Kristensen and Perker are simply riffing on the Twilight Zone episode, Eye of the Beholder, but if that is the case, then they are laying it on a bit thick. They need to back off a bit and let us love Todd instead of giving up on him.
There is one moment in the issue where Kristensen and Perker get the tone and feel right for a farce. The grizzled old detective, Vern, is home with his family. Hhis daughters comes in playing with the dolls which Vern has been railing against earlier in the issue. He snatches them from the girls and points out that the doll is dressed like a slut (it should be noted that the doll is dressed in an ankle length summer dress). Cowering behind the wife, the youngest daughter is wearing an identical dress.
Todd the Ugliest Kid on Earth tries valiantly to be a dark comedy. It wants to be funny and pointed, and have something to say about families and societies and judging others. unfortunately it piles it on so thick that it is difficult to get down to the characters, to the people we should be caring about.
Todd the Ugliest Kid on Earth #1 is released by Image Comics tomorrow.