A Crazy Loon In Tarnished Armour: Reviewing Plastic #4

by Oliver MacNamee

 

I have to admit, one of my favourite smells in all the world has always been a freshly opened plastic toy, straight out of its blister pack. Or, is that a collectible figure? I forget which one I should be using. Still, it’s a smell that, no doubt, has a lot to do with nostalgia but nonetheless, it’s a smell I adore to this day. I’m just not as obsessed with plastic as much as Edwyn Stoffgruppen, the away-with-the-fairies serial killer who seems to have found some madcap kind of inner peace with himself, so long as the love of his life, a fully sized set doll called Virgina, is nearby.

Only, she’s not been by his side for the majority of this black and bloody comedy series, brought to you by Doug Wagner and Daniel Hillyard. And so Edwyn has resorted to his bad old ways in an attempt to get his love out of the greasy grips of a local mob boss in Louisiana. And here he thought he would have a quiet road trip across the backwaters of America, just him and his sex doll. Who would have thought with a premise like that, anything would go wrong, right?

This penultimate installment continues to be a blast to read, although I imagine it’ll be one of those series that you’ll either love or find disturbing and disgusting. Y’know, like Donald Trump.

The trick here is that while Edwyn is clearly one spanner short of the full tool-box, the surrounding characters are more vile than him; they don’t have insanity as a defence for starters and so, are nowhere near as nuts. We root for Edwyn because he isn’t the worst character in the book and when he seeks revenge for the kidnapping of his ‘lover’ and happily goes on a murder spree–resulting in wrapping the severed heads of his victims in plastic bags (hey, when you’ve got a kink, you’ve really got a kink)–it’s accepted.

Bizarrely enough, Edwyn seems to have some sort of twisted moral code he works to and as such he becomes something of a knight in shining armour for lone young female hitchhiker, Gwen, who end up tagging along for the ride. Well, a crazy loon in tarnished armour, at least.

This issue is soaked in blood as much as the previous issues and in the more than capable hands of Wagner and Hillyard, there’s just the right amount of cartoon craziness to pull it off. We can laugh, and chose sides, because it’s a comic and so over the top you can’t help taking sides. After all, Edwin starts this whole crazy adventure seeming to be relatively normal. Well, except for the sex doll.

Hillyard certainly brings Edwyn to life through manic facial expressions that run the gamut of enraged emotions as well as creating an instantly identifiable cast of scumbags and the like. Wagner has found a suitable partner in crime when it comes to telling this tale of kinky obsession and Middle American gothic.

Gwen seems to be more than willing to stick around with this loon, whether from early onset of Stockholm syndrome or for some other reason. Maybe she feels she owes him for saving her? After all, this is a book that includes other, more milder obsessions too. Check out how many times donuts appear across the series and you’ll know what I mean. Either way, Gwen doesn’t seem to be too phased, even when she walks in on Edwyn hacking up another stooge.

As road trips go, this is certainly one that takes a detour from the main highway very quickly and doesn’t let up for a minute. How it ends will be revealed next issue but for now, I’m just enjoying the ride. It’s not too late to still hop onboard either, y’know. You’ll be glad you did. A great, darkly humoured tour de force.

Plastic #4 is out now from Image Comics