Terror Assaulter: O.M.W.O.T. by Benjamin Marra Review

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<i>Terror Assaulter: O.M.W.O.T.</i> by Benjamin Marra Review

Writer & Artist: Benjamin Marra
Publisher: Fantagraphics
Release Date: 10/3/2015

Genuine comic folk artists like Fletcher Hanks (You Shall Die By Your Own Evil Creation!) offer no pretension in their works of hyper-exaggerated dualism. Hanks and his ilk can be filed under sincere obsessive and examined from a distance, like an animal in a zoo. Benjamin Marra, who mines similar ground in Terror Assaulter: O.M.W.O.T. (One Man War on Terror), is tougher to categorize. Unlike the revelatory id of Hanks, Marra has academic training, in both fine art and illustration. But even more so, Marra’s level of sincerity shimmers back and forth between a parody of ‘80s action tropes and a secret, guilty love of that excess.

Terror Assaulter is nothing but graphic violence interspersed with graphic sex: just panel after panel of one type of pounding or another. It’s often unclear at the beginning of a scene whether the titular Assaulter’s journey will end in a decapitation or a money shot. Using Superman-esque color palette with bright reds, blues and yellows, the graphic novel’s art is visually loud and often deliberately ugly. Characters’ bodies are overworked, excessively and badly shaded, drawn from imagination rather than photo reference and, therefore, often ignore the laws of physics and physiognomy. The writing is sharply bad, a spot-on imitation of hyper-masculine wish-fulfillment genre work.

Marra has drawn comparisons to filmmaker Paul Verhoeven (Robocop, Showgirls, Total Recall), and what the two of them respond to in the American soul is similar, but Verhoeven, who is Dutch, comes from an outside perspective. Marra was born in Canada, but went to school in the United States and works more from the inside of the beast, with less license to distance himself completely from the culture he portrays. He may be making fun of Frank Miller, with an insistence on “grittiness,” but the pleasures of reading this book don’t result purely from dismissing the American conflation of sex and violence. Marra draws his explosions, somersaults, stoic facial expressions, testicles, assault rifles and more with a loving abandon that speaks of compulsion more than straight satire. That commitment to the subject also makes Terror Assaulter much more interesting: a piece of art radiating strangeness, eager to be unpacked and experienced by different audiences.

Terror Assaulter: O.M.W.O.T. Interior Art by Benjamin Marra

Terror Assaulter: O.M.W.O.T. Interior Art by Benjamin Marra