To know Hashtag: Danger is to love Hashtag: Danger, and there will be some readers who know the series from its days as a backup story in Ahoy Comics’ Captain Ginger and High Heaven. Not knowing the series, though, I wasn’t prepared to find Chris Giarrusso’s art inside. Richard Williams is the cover artist (he recently did the covers for Edgar Alan Poe’s Snifter of Terror) and his paintings recall the high adventures of an Edgar Rice Burroughs’ series (except Tarzan never had to deal with cell phones or the mechanics of taking a selfie while sinking in quicksand).
Williams’ art is also dramatically different in tone from Giarrusso’s, which is more cartoony in style. While it’s not uncommon, in comics, for the cover art not to match the interiors (that’s the variant cover market in a nutshell), I immediately re-considered reading this series after learning Giarrusso was involved [at the same time, I do see the importance in making sure children don’t pick up this issue by mistake, thinking it’s one of Giarrusso’s all-ages titles].
The humor in this series, as written by Tom Peyer, definitely runs on the dark side (when confronted about kidnapping a baby Yeti, Dr. Einstein Armstrong responds, “It was easy! Don’t you see how weak he is?”) while a tweet gives us the issue’s main agenda: prove that the Yeti exists. I’m not sure if getting to the bottom of mythological creatures is the club’s usual line of work (Einstein is a crypto-biologist). It was smart of the series to leave Peyer’s editor’s note until the end, because if I had known there were back-up stories I would’ve probably wanted to read those first (they aren’t included in volume one of Captain Ginger or High Heaven so maybe Ahoy will add them to the eventual Hashtag: Danger volume, or repackage them as a special, catch-up issue). That being said, there’s no obvious handicap to having not read them and the Yeti storyline appears to be brand new.
Besides Einstein, Desi is the club’s leader while Sugar Rae acts as their muscle. Most of the issue takes place in wintery conditions, with everyone bundled up to stay warm, yet slight variations in coat length and headwear ensure that their clothes fall short of a uniform. Appropriate, given Hashtag: Danger have a lot to learn about working together as a team, their infighting causes one chapter to go psychedelic.
For a series with social media on the brain, branding isn’t the team’s specialty. In the editor’s note, Peyer explains how the team got its name. “Hashtag” was spelled out to annoy Desi, but it also serves the illusion that Hashtag: Danger are a superhero team. In truth, #Danger (or Hashtag: Danger) is just “danger.” What they’re doing isn’t making the world a better place and in fact their home base (an island shaped like a hashtag) looks suspiciously like a villain’s lair. It’s this ambiguity and willingness to be spontaneous that makes Hashtag: Danger such a hoot.
As a bonus, there’s a reason Ahoy call their issues “comic magazines.” In addition to two prose stories by Mark Russell and Gunnar de Winter (with illustrations by Alan Robinson and Charlie Sam), Hashtag: Danger has its own back-up series now. Snelson is a bitter, little tale about a standup comedian waiting in line for a concert. Written by Paul Constant, it’s the kind of mundane action you wouldn’t think to encapsulate in a comic, yet it works on the deliberate sourness of its main character. Every panel is angled by artist, Fred Harper, to play into Snelson’s insecurities and the claustrophobia of the line, while Lee Loughridge’s colors give the affair an illicit edge. Interior monologue is crucial to the story’s success and letterer, Rob Steen, sometimes makes the switch in a single speech bubble (a compactness you don’t often see achieved).
Available now from Ahoy Comics, issue #2 comes out next week, too, on June 5th.