I first discovered Oni Press through the works of Jim Mahfood and Chynna Clugston, creators who painstakingly weave music (and musical subcultures) into their comics. So when I learned that Oni was also to be the publisher of a new project from Jeffrey Burandt, AKA: Jef UK of incomparable synth-punkers the Americans UK, it only made sense.
Jef has long been penning comics about the sci-fi exploits of his own band, but in the recently released Odd Schnozz and the Odd Squad–illustrated by Dennis Culver of Edison Rex–he takes on high school, government conspiracies, and the rigors of a world that just doesn’t understand via a team of teenage misfits… and also a talking chimp.
Liz, the titular Odd Schnozz, is the bandleader, frontwoman, and the beloved daughter of a single father with a literal nose for trouble. Drummer Bodey, Odd Bod, is a gangly but softhearted metalhead. Maude, Odd Mod, is the band’s bassist, with a stepmom who’s never satisfied and an attitude that just won’t quite, and Justine, Just Odd, is a sheltered keyboard prodigy who is much more than she seems.
Together, along with a talking ape calling himself Dr. Zakowski, they take on everything Plano, TX can throw at them, including a super-intelligent gorilla, a host of cybernetically enhanced critters from the secret organization known as B.L.A.N.K., and a Battle of the Bands that devolves into a battle for survival. Along the way Mod gets grounded, Bod gets captured, and Schnozz learns that the life she’s always known is far from what it seems.
At its core, Odd Schnozz and the Odd Squad is a rollicking teen drama with a healthy dose of punk rock energy and a dash of heart. Across the seven-issue arc Burandt’s writing always hits the mark, and Dennis Culver paints a surreal but cohesive world alive with adventure and the requisite torrent of emotion you’d expect from such youthful protagonists.
While I’d stop short of calling it true all-ages fare, I’m also inclined to think that the book’s suggested age rating of 12+ may be a bit too conservative. While there’s no sex or profanity, there are some issues that would likely make it inappropriate for your youngest readers–specifically violence, including one instance that results in the hospitalization of a bully, and a major plot point that hinges on animal testing, which is, thankfully, handled without any undue heavy-handedness.
That said, if you trust your little ones can process instances like these, I’d say most comics fans in the double digits could get a laugh and more than a little fun from the Odd Squad. As for grown-ups, well, I certainly enjoyed it myself; it ably combines the teenage kitsch of Oni favorites like Blue Monday with the strong family sensibilities of Jen Van Meter’s superlative Hopeless Savages, along with its own special charms.
The full graphic novel is available now at Amazon, and you can pick up the trade or the individual issues digitally via Comixology. (And let’s not forget your friendly local comic book retailer!) Since music plays such a big part in the adventure, you can also cop the Odd Schnozz and the Odd Squad soundtrack from Bandcamp. It includes the Squad’s own theme song as well as cuts from those sinister cyborgs, the Mechazoa, and the Rap Bots for a cool four bucks.
It’s a fun tie-in product that fits perfectly into the world of Odd Schnozz and her crew, and serves as a great supplement to the songs presented throughout the book. You can preview it below, but I heartily recommend adding it to your collection–as well as the comic that inspired it.
In an entertainment landscape of brooding heroes and over-the-top action, Odd Schnozz and the Odd Squad is an accessible, enjoyable origin story that’s alternately sweet and suspenseful, but always delightfully weird. It’s a great start, and, personally, I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the Lone Star State’s most unlikely super-powered superstars.
Review materials provided by: Jeffrey Burandt, Oni Press