Bob Howard is a simple man doing a not-so simple job. He’s not much for talking, preferring to put in an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. He’s a man who “loves his craft” as evidenced by the slogan emblazoned on his pick-up truck, but the unfortunate truth of his craft is that unclogging pipes and setting traps for unwanted rodents tends to lead to trouble. Monstrously big trouble.
There are two stories in this 32-page black-and-white comic. The first involves a gossipy old woman’s clogged pipes and the Lovecraftian leviathan which lies in wait. Nieves gets to show off his comedic chops in this story, as the panels depicting Bob’s encounter with the monster are intercut with the old lady’s variety of insults and demands. Dougherty, on the other hand, beautifully illustrates both the mundane realities of suburban life and some straight-up disgusting tentacled monsters as well.
The second story is more of the same, with Bob paying a visit to a family beset with rodent problems. It’s a clever homage to Lovecraft’s classic “Rats in the Walls” story that sees our intrepid custodian do battle with a giant-size rat.
I wasn’t sure quite what to expect from Bob Howard, Plumber of the Unknown. The title obviously suggested humor, but being familiar with Nieves and Dougherty’s work on The Apocalypse Plan earlier this year, I knew the guys for their balls-out action and intelligent reinterpretations of religion and mythology. Exactly where would Bob Howard fall?
While the comic doesn’t feature any religious overtones, Bob Howard doesn’t skimp on the action or the intelligence. What could have very easily been a one-note joke repeated over 32 pages turns out to be a brilliantly paced mix of horror and humor. Simply put, these guys know how to tell an illustrated story, and they know how to mix genres as well.
Every panel on every page sees both the tension rise as well as our spirits as I found myself smiling not only at the humor, but also at Dougherty’s ability to draw me in and build the suspense until finally exploding in a full-page depiction of delicious monstery goodness.
This book was an absolute blast and my only real beef with it was that it left me wanting more. Bob Howard, Plumber of the Unknown is just a whole lot of fun and satisfied my love of monsters and appealed to my funny bone. While it didn’t quite match the comedic talents of guys like Harold Ramis, Bill Murray or Dan Aykroyd, the book had a very “Ghostbusters” vibe to it, which I I appreciated along with the subtle (and not-so subtle) nods to H.P. Lovecraft. All-in-all, it was just a really good time. Check out the website and give it a shot.