The joke is Loki as a cat version of Odinson. That joke is hilarious, and would be hilarious as a one-panel gag, but look at how Henderson and North stretch it out: 3 panels of Loki being a genial dick (setup); Nancy losing her mind and suggesting Cat Thor for one panel; and then Loki’s transformation into the ridiculous Cat Thor. It’s a funny joke on its own, made even funnier by how drawn out Loki’s dickishness is at every step. From his elaborate introduction to Nancy to the one extra beat the joke is held, splitting the transformation into two panels at the bottom, the whole thing is designed to build laughter in the reader.
Meanwhile, Zdarsky (Sex Criminals), Kagan McLeod (Kaptara), or Browne (God Hates Astronauts, the upcoming Curse Wordswith Charles Soule) approach comedy differently: they pack so many gags into each panel that it’s sometimes slows down the pace of the actual storytelling. Look at this panel from Sex Criminals #2 and tell me you read all of the gags in it in less than two minutes.
I counted five without zooming in, and cried a little after I did zoom.
Both of these books, however, trade comedy for long stretches of narrative propulsion – they tell their stories, and they don’t have to cram setup or punchlines into every panel quite the same way that Pugh and Russell do in Flintstones. The third issue is a perfect illustration of this: I counted 42 jokes on 20 pages, but every page had at least one gag, and rarely did any of them have more than two. And the pacing of the jokes wasn’t methodical as much as it was barreling – check out this three page sequence with Fred and Barney playing pool at the repurposed Water Buffalo Hall.
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