Mr. T Comic Book Jibba Jabba: Part Five

July 10th, 2010 by | Tags: , ,

We move closer and closer into the present with the various Mr. T comics and upon hitting 2008, we get to my favorite of the bunch. Now, while Mr. T and the T-Force and the short-lived Mr. T from 2005 involved a couple of neat elements, there’s something rather underwhelming about going the lengths of getting the Mr. T license and not doing anything extra special with it. The A-Team comic wasn’t especially fantastic, but at least it knew that being outlandish couldn’t hurt. The stories made little sense, but we still had B.A. Barracus fighting a sumo, getting into bar fights and knocking out Russian soldiers.

After the unfortunate cancellation of the 2005 Mr. T due to the company closing down, Christopher Bunting decided he would keep it going. He started up Mohawk Media and released yet another Mr. T comic. While the stories are basically split up into issues, including covers, they would not be released separately and by the month. Instead, Bunting would let them loose all at once with the new Mr. T graphic novel.

I don’t know how to feel about that “AS SEEN ON TV” logo.

There are five issues in the trade. The first four are its own story arc with JL Czerniawski on art. The bonus issue is done by artist Giovanni P. Timpano. While, yes, the comic does have a lot of Mr. T being preachy, it’s a lot less forced this time around. The reliance of having Mr. T yell at children for doing drugs is finally put to rest.

Also, between the issues are pages of Mr. T answering fan mail. If you’re wondering, Mr. T believes Clubber Lang would beat B.A. in a fight.

The first issue has a couple moments that make me groan and think this is going to be a horrid experience. Like how the very first page is Mr. T knocked out and bound in a laboratory of some sort. That doesn’t sound so bad, except he’s being held down in the crucifixion pose, down to the crossed ankles. I can’t imagine why this would be intentional, but really? You didn’t look at that page and realize how ridiculous it is before figuring it would be a good idea to redraw it?

We’re shown that Mr. T is in the trailer of a truck, with the narration noting that he’s in “The USA”. Discussion between men in suits show that Mr. T took out five of them when they captured him and they overdosed him with tranquilizer to keep him down. That’s show to not be enough, as Mr. T breaks out and knocks them around, leaving only on conscious.

The government really needs Victor Davenport protected, since he receives millions in grants. Davenport distrusts the FBI thanks to his wife running off with an agent, so they have to hire a third party bodyguard. Mr. T is the best of the best and is recognizable enough that Davenport would accept him, so they insist. To coax Mr. T, they show that it isn’t just Davenport that they’re trying to protect, but his son Owen. Seeing a photo of the kid, T reluctantly agrees.

Davenport is a weapons designer and tries to win Mr. T’s approval by showing off that he doesn’t just create weapons, but all types of protective armor. Getting to business, the threat they’re up against is Edward Franklin, a former business partner of Davenport’s before they had a falling out and became rivals. Franklin went out of business and went crazy with ideas of revenge while claiming that Davenport stole all his inventions.

When we meet Owen and his nanny Indigo Jo, I again groan openly. The kid asks about what Mr. T’s name stands for.

Ugh. You’re really going for that? That exchange was tired twenty years ago.

Victor Davenport leaves to his lab, insisting Mr. T stays with his son. Mr. T is quick to find Owen sneaking off to do some graffiti. They go over why Owen should stay in school, how he should be using his artistic ability in more helpful ways and how Owen wishes he could stay with his mother, at least some of the time. Right as this is beginning to get a little too after school special, a guy in Iron Man armor calling himself Metal Ed breaks through a brick wall and starts raising Hell.

He’s immediately identified as Edward Franklin and manhandles Mr. T, throwing him through a brick wall – not once – but twice. Mr. T tries covering him in lighter fluid and lighting him up.

That doesn’t work, but Mr. T ends up thrown in a room full of Davenport’s weapons and something catches his eye. Davenport himself shows up to tell Metal Ed to stop. Metal Ed pulls out a pistol, with a design he states Davenport stole. Indigo Jo strikes Ed from behind with a steel pipe, but he’s barely phased. He turns around and shoots her, grazing her ribs. He prepares to finisher her off when Mr. T comes running at him. Metal Ed opens fire on Mr. T until he finally falls over.

To Metal Ed’s surprise, Mr. T springs back up and pounces. Metal Ed is too busy ranting about how Mr. T is wearing the body armor that HE created that he leaves himself open for Mr. T to tear off the helmet, toss him to the ground and chop him in the neck.

The ending doesn’t make all that much sense. Mr. T suddenly believes Metal Ed’s claim that Davenport stole his ideas even though Davenport’s like, “What? No!” Indigo Jo reveals herself to be an FBI agent and has Davenport arrested. Despite everything, Davenport is glad Mr. T protected Owen and lets him keep the body armor as compensation.

The final scene shows Owen secretly doing some more work with cans of spraypaint, but when Mr. T catches him, it isn’t graffiti. He just added a nice golden T logo to the blue body armor. Indigo Jo is shown with her arm in a sling and—wait a minute. She got shot in the midsection. Metal Ed didn’t lay a hand on her otherwise. Why the hell is her arm in a sling?

This isn’t the last we hear of Indigo Jo and I wonder if she’s a second chance at the other long-haired Asian female asskicker who showed up on the cover of Bunting’s Mr. T #1. You know, the woman who never even showed up in the comic itself.

Like I said, that wasn’t so much of a good comic, but it certainly gets a lot better. Actually, let me rephrase that. It gets a lot better after the cover of the second issue.

Good God! Putting it together in my head that this is supposed to be an homage to the cover to Incredible Hulk #402 (the one where Juggernaut ambushes him in the woods) takes a little of the edge off, but still! T was never that jacked! Look at his tiny head! He’s so jazzed about punching over trees! You’d think that lumberjack behind him would be happy!

The story takes place in Montana. A little girl named Laura Baker has been kidnapped and is lost in the woods. The police appear to be bought off by a third party and refuse to do anything until hearing that Mr. T has been hired by the girl’s adopted parents to track her down. He breaks through whatever traps get in his way and discovers Laura, all tied up next to a campfire. He gets her gag off and explains who he is. Suddenly, she freaks out.

Rhino is a mute monster of a man who is able to run through trees like they were nothing. He and Mr. T have one hell of a fight that lasts seven pages. It’s really rad, filled with trees being shattered and jaws being cracked. Mr. T gets nervous at seeing Rhino Richards smile and realizes that he’s standing right in front of a cliff. Rhino shoves Mr. T into the big chasm and lurches over towards Laura. In the only real head-shaking moment of this story, Mr. T is already back in like three seconds, surprising Rhino by smashing him with a tree upside the head. I really can’t make heads or tails of this sequence. Mr. T fell a LONG WAY DOWN and yet there he is, able to get back up to where he was, quietly pick up a tree and paste Rhino with it during however long it took Rhino to turn around and walk over to the little girl.

But there’s another threat. Rhino has a friend in Snakebite Bill, a shotgun-wielding criminal with horrible teeth. When faced down with him, Mr. T turns to Laura and asks, “They touch you, Laura?” Did they—whoa, that’s different. Can’t say I expected that. She says they didn’t and that they were hired to steal her away, but that part is still sort of foreshadowing in its own way.

Mr. T tells Laura to run as he deals with Bill, but she stammers. Bill begins to laugh, as Mr. T was never told about Laura’s predicament.

Snakebite Bill shoots Mr. T in the chest, but he’s got his bulletproof armor, so he’s able to stand back up and punch Bill’s lights out. The police later find Bill and Rhino tied up, upside down and unconscious. The sheriff talks to someone on the phone about the failed kidnapping and the other guy, shown sitting in a church, is certainly not happy. The sheriff watches Mr. T carry Laura home and describes him to his benefactor.

“Can see ‘em now. I’ll never catch ‘em. It’s a huge black guy with a mohawk…”

“Mr. T?!!”

“You know him?”

Whoa, what?!

I think by this point it should be a little clearer why I dig Bunting’s latest take on Mr. T. He’s a muscular black dude from the streets who’s impervious to bullets and gets hired to be a hero, all while dealing with really comic booky threats with outlandish names. Mr. T: The Graphic Novel is a modern day version of Luke Cage: Hero for Hire and I welcome it with open arms.

The next two issues take place in London, England. There’s a group of relative likeable folks in plainclothes hanging out in a bar, beating up rude patrons (yes, AGAIN) and discussing their upcoming job. In their work clothes, they call themselves the Quad Squad, a group of ninjas with the names Red Kite, White Falcon, Blue Bull and Brown Marten. They’re hired to go “take care of” a vicar named Reverend Duffy.

Meanwhile, Mr. T and Indigo Jo are on a plane towards England, with Mr. T being very apprehensive about the whole flying concept. Indigo Jo is doing a trial run as a part of Mr. T’s bodyguarding firm, so she’s tagging along for their mission to protect Reverend Duffy. Someone mysterious (possibly the Church of England) secretly paid Mr. T a lot of money to protect him. Jo has a bad feeling about this.

There are a couple interlude scenes tossed in to foreshadow the stories for the possible next trade. One shows an old man in Berlin being chased by an army of Nazi robots. He jumps off a bridge into the water below and it’s up in the air whether he survived or not. But we do see Mr. T’s business card floating on the water. The other scene involves two brothers in the Himalayas. One is an archer with a white thermal-enhancement suit calling himself Arrow-Route. He’s a bodyguard, but his brother makes fun of him for being a superhero. The brother falls into a cavern, sees some skulls, freaks out and then gets attacked by a yeti.

Arrow-Route only appears in three panels, yet he gets to appear on one variant of the graphic novel’s cover. I want his agent.

While I’m talking about interludes, there’s another one in the following issue that I might as well cover here. Victor Davenport and Edward Franklin from the first story are put in a special state-of-the-art escape-proof prison called Lazaract. Davenport naturally makes fun of Franklin for his failure as Metal Ed, but a shadowy man in a neighboring cell takes interest in Franklin. He’s an expert escape artist and he’s putting together “a team” to get out of Lazaract. Franklin goes over how perfect the prison is and how impossible it is to get out. The shadowy man proves him wrong.

Perfect. Utterly perfect. Who better to be a villain for Mr. T than a George Peppard pastiche?

Back to the England stuff. Reverend Duffy doesn’t know why someone hired Mr. T for protection and he doesn’t want any help. They come across a student and friend to Duffy named Matthew, who’s sporting a black eye. Duffy believes it to be bully related, but Mr. T thinks there’s more to it. He thinks someone might be trying to get to Duffy through the kids, beating Matthew to send a message. While following around Duffy, they come across the Quad Squad – still in their civilian guises – as they hang out in the church and one of them jokingly washes his face in the holy water. Mr. T finds them suspicious and has them leave, though they walk away telling each other that their recon mission is a success.

Mr. T and Reverend Duffy walk around the church grounds and talk about all sorts of things. Mr. T thinks that Matthew kid seems familiar, but he probably reminds him of himself when he was that age. Duffy knows for certain that the Church of England didn’t hire Mr. T, since they have their own people for that. The conversation goes to Mr. T discussing the things he’s done growing up and in the army and wonders if the fact that he can no longer bring himself to use a gun makes him a better man or a coward, unable to come to terms with the past. Duffy calmly tells him that he’s a good man, that his sins were done out of survival and that he shouldn’t dwell on such things so much.

Indigo Jo tails Matthew, trying to figure out who attacked him. He’s bigger than all the other kids in his classes and acts like a loner, so it isn’t them. His foster mother seems to like him, so it isn’t her. She loses him for a second as he meets up with someone in a dark alley. Matthew recognizes him, but acts nervous. Completely missing out on that meeting, Indigo Jo catches up on Matthew to see him returning to the church.

The Quad Squad appears and takes the fight to Mr. T. Duffy and Matthew run off and Jo follows, since she’s promised Mr. T that she’ll keep an eye on the kid no matter what. One of her FBI friends calls her to give her some troubling information about Matthew.

Mr. T swats Brown Marten out of the air and Blue Bull momentarily overpowers him. Mr. T’s head is dunked into the holy water, but he powers out and takes down Blue Bull. The female members Red Kite and White Falcon latch onto Mr. T’s arms.

Mr. T is down. The team is ready to finish things, but a shadowy someone throws an entire pew at the four and takes them out. Red Kite is the only one conscious, wondering who nailed them. The figure says that Reverend Duffy is under his protection. Red Kite says that they’ve been hired to protect Duffy, since Mr. T is supposedly planning a double-cross. The stranger laughs that off. Mr. T would never do such a thing. Especially since he is the one who anonymously hired Mr. T in the first place. Red Kite says that this means they’re on the same side, but gets chopped in the neck and goes unconscious.

“Wrong! Any enemy of Mr. T’s is an enemy of mine! Only one person is going to finish Mr. T… and that’s me!”

As Mr. T begins to drift into unconsciousness, he looks up to see a shadowy figure with a mohawk, gold chain, beard and similar musculature. For a second he thinks it’s himself!

So that was a lot of setup outside of the fight sequence, but it’s enough to get the final issue of the arc going. There’s some kind of evil Mr. T, the Quad Squad is being played and there’s something going on with that Matthew kid. So far I’ve been enjoying the book, but the next issue takes some ridiculous turns and I can’t help but dig it.

For one, the cover shows Mr. T aiming a pistol with the tagline, “No more Mister Nice T.” This is based on the cover for Daredevil #184. It begins with Mr. T in a dream sequence, meeting up with all the different versions of himself. There’s Overalls Mr. T, Denim Vest Mr. T, Bald Bodyguard Mr. T, etc. He even runs into the Mr. T Rubber Ducky, which is very much a real thing.

I hear the term “love letter” get thrown around a lot these days, but this book really is a love letter to Mr. T. Also, I have to remember to recycle that middle panel in the future.

He comes to to find the Quad Squad very apologetic. Seems they drugged the holy water earlier as a way to take him out. When Mr. T has his back turned, they vanish, but there’s no time to look for them. Indigo Jo calls to say that she’s followed Reverend Duffy and Matthew to an area with a bunch of cable cars, but before she can tell Mr. T what her FBI informant had to say, she’s shot in the back. Mr. T shatters his phone and runs into action.

Jo is mostly unharmed, since she was wearing the same kind of bulletproof armor that T uses. She’s placed on top of one of the cable cars and they start moving. Mr. T jumps from car to car to save her, but his evil tormentor shows himself again.

“The subtle, understated approach was never your style! I should know… it left me with shrapnel in my brain!”

“Clive? That you? Clive Callahan…?”

“No. Cos that ain’t my name no more. People call me—“

Yes. YES! This is comics, people! The very idea that Evil Mr. T is basically Zangief in a tracksuit is amazing. I’m loving this. And you know what? We haven’t even gotten to the best part yet!

So Mr. C, who calls Mr. T by his real name Tureaud, pounds on Mr. T and explains more of the plot. He’s always wanted revenge on Mr. T for the shrapnel thing (to the point of creating the Mr. C persona in the first place), but now he wants revenge for the more recent thwarting of that kidnapping of Laura from the second issue. He was behind that kidnapping and he admits to being the one who hired Mr. T for this job as a way to draw him out. He pounds on Mr. T for a bit and then throws Indigo Jo off the car. Mr. T catches her and lets go of the car, allowing the trees below to break their fall.

The duo regroups and Mr. T gets ready to face Mr. C for a rematch. Jo stops him first and gives him that information from before, which seems to be that Matthew has been meeting up with Mr. C. This drives Mr. T into a rage as he finds Mr. C with Reverend Duffy and Matthew and unloads on his rival’s face. Mr. T always knew Mr. C was crazy, but to hurt a little boy like that? Mr. C is shocked at these accusations, asking why he’d harm his own son.

This surprises Reverend Duffy, but Mr. T knows he’s telling the truth. When he thought Matthew looked familiar earlier, it’s because he’s the twin brother of Laura. They’re Mr. C’s children and he’s been trying to get them back, but Mr. T’s interference has driven him into a frenzy. Indigo Jo and the Quad Squad appear to fully explain the plot and how somebody set all of this up. It’s a lot of dialogue, so I’ll sum it up best I can:

The Quad Squad was hired by subsidiaries of the Boom Brothers, an extremely dangerous couple of villain masterminds. Like said earlier, the Quad Squad has been led to believe that Mr. T is a threat to Reverend Duffy. The Boom Brothers also bankrolled Laura’s family to hire Mr. T. They tricked Mr. C into getting involved with this in hopes that he’d be able to take Mr. T out of the picture. In other words, gears were set in motion by the Boom Brothers to have both the Quad Squad AND Mr. C try to kill Mr. T.

Mr. C says that one part of it doesn’t make sense. The plan is so intricate, but it’s based on the very idea that Mr. T would attack Reverend Duffy. Why would such a religious guy go after a priest? Brown Marten brings up Star Trek VI and a line from Spock, “When you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” Mr. C thinks he’s an idiot, but Mr. T thinks there’s wisdom in there. The answer to this mystery is all based on Matthew’s black eye.

Mr. C doesn’t get it, but calmly asks his son about who really hurt him. Reverend Duffy brings up that it’s already been established to be because of a school bully, but Mr. C wants to hear Matthew himself tell the story. Duffy keeps interrupting and amidst the irritation, Mr. C starts to put it together.

Hey, now!

Duffy says he hit Matthew because he saw him ogling a girl and got jealous. Mr. C is horrified. It isn’t enough that Duffy hit his kid, but he’s been molesting him all this time too! Holy crap, I did NOT expect them to go that route. Matthew cries to his father and says that he was too embarrassed to tell him and that Duffy would have told on him for drinking some of the communal wine. Mr. C blames himself for being absent as a father and shows some really strong emotion as he’s dying from his wound. He begs Mr. T to make sure Duffy pays for this, but Duffy doesn’t think that’s an option. Even if he gets arrested, Great Britain is a lenient land and he’d be free almost immediately. Besides, he has the Quad Squad backing him up, right?

The Quad Squad leaves in disgust, saying that they have their own moral code. Mr. T instructs Matthew and Jo to run off and get some medical help. That leaves Duffy aiming his gun at Mr. T while Mr. C no longer appears to be breathing. It appears that at some point the Boom Brothers planted a gun in Duffy’s church and he took it as a sign from God, which explains why he’s packing. Mr. T, disgusted as can be, says that Duffy’s betrayed God, his trust and worst of all, Matthew. He holds Mr. C’s discarded gun and the two have a Mexican standoff. Duffy is pretty confident, since according to their earlier conversation, Mr. T is no executioner and would never fire a gun.

The last page is Mr. T proving him wrong with what appears to be a point-blank headshot. Damn.

I thought for certain that they’d do some kind of wholesome “there has to be another way!” ending with Duffy being taken away in handcuffs, but the very idea that they’d go for that kind of ending – hell, even the twist that one of the characters is a pedo priest – is completely jarring. I’m genuinely surprised that Mr. T himself would sign off on that, but I’m glad he did. That alone makes this far more compelling than anything to come out of Mr. T and the T-Force.

There is one last issue in the book, though it’s more of a one-shot. The story takes Mr. T to Australia, where he fights resident superhero the Roofer on, well, a roof. It’s all a misunderstanding, as Mr. T has been hired by Roofer’s assistant Amanda to protect him. The Roofer points out that as a superhero he doesn’t need any protection, but then his supervillain, Fireball, appears on a neighboring rooftop and fires explosives at him. Mr. T and Roofer can’t get their hands on the armored villain in time, but Mr. T does notice how erratic and scared he is in the Roofer’s presence.

They go back to meet with Amanda, who is not only Roofer’s girlfriend, but a former girlfriend of Mr. T.

I love that Mr. T is disgusted at the idea of Stallone being portrayed in a positive light.

We’re shown to think of Amanda as kind of a bitch. She left Mr. T without saying a word and defends herself by discussing her need for adventure. This is what led to her being with the Roofer. As Mr. T and Amanda discuss all this, we see Roofer in a meeting with a bunch of suits, discussing the possibilities of the movie. The consensus is that Roofer just needs two things to get done with before the deal can be fully greenlit: he has to find closure by defeating Fireball in real life and he needs to propose to Amanda, preferably on the country’s biggest talkshow. Roofer seems strangely taken aback by all of this idea.

Mr. T is supposed to go keep an eye on Roofer, but he comes back to ask Amanda one more thing and finds her with Fireball.

It seems the relationship between Roofer and Fireball isn’t as cut and dry as hero vs. villain. Fireball is Jacob, a good friend of Roofer, who was asked to help Roofer’s chances with endorsement deals. They staged a fake fight where Fireball burned down the empty ruins of an old factory and it really got the public behind Roofer. But it’s all gone to Roofer’s head and he just won’t quit. Fireball’s legitimately afraid of what Roofer will do if he gets his hands on him.

And another thing: Fireball and Amanda are knocking boots on the side. Man. Mr. T has had enough of this jibba jabba and decides to storm off for the next flight to America.

Amanda decides to come clean to Roofer and things don’t go so well. At first we do side with him, since her initial reasoning is that Roofer used to be exciting, but now he’s too busy going to meetings, even though he points out that it pays their bills. Then she brings up how she knows about his groupies from reading his fan-mail. She admits that she’s always loved Fireball and Roofer calmly admits to himself that he’s probably always known this. Then he snaps and throws a table over.

Amanda later finds that Mr. T decided not to leave the country just yet. He found it curious that she’d hire him to protect Roofer now of all times. She’s always been meaning to tell Roofer the truth and figured that Mr. T being there would offer more protection to Fireball in the aftermath. She sadly says that she already told Roofer about everything, including where Fireball is hiding out.

Oh, shit. It’s on now.

Roofer confronts Fireball at the burned down ruins of the old factory where their super-rivalry started up. As it turns out, making Fireball his personal villain was something Roofer came up with to deal with his inability to admit he knew about the affair. Sucks for Fireball, as Roofer’s corporate backers have paid for a fireproof outfit, making him unstoppable. Amanda runs over to help put a stop to all of this, but Roofer smacks her down. He prepares to stomp a mudhole into her, but Mr. T jumps down from a hole in the roof and they start fighting.

The brawling causes the place to crumble, leaving just enough time for Amanda and Fireball to escape. Mr. T and Roofer survive, but find themselves boxed up in a claustrophobic hole in the rubble. Roofer’s jumping powers are nullified and Mr. T punches him into the distance. The police arrive for Roofer, they find no reason whatsoever to arrest Fireball and we have ourselves a happy ending. Oh, except they aren’t cops after all, but henchmen of the Boom Brothers, out to recruit Roofer for their own purposes. Mr. T already has a better rogues gallery than Deadpool and Booster Gold combined.

Is this the end of Bunting’s Mr. T? I really hope not. I know he doesn’t intend for it to be, since the Mohawk Media site still updates every once and a while. The trade ends with a series of covers meant for the next chapter in the Mr. T saga. Other than a Spider-Man-based “MR. T NO MORE!” cover, I noticed one based on Deadpool #52 (the one with the serial killer Britney Spears knockoffs). I’ve yet to hear any actual announcement of this volume, but I hope it sees the light of day.

I did, however, hear of another attempt at more Mr. T comics. On one April 1st, Bunting thought the “Fools” part of April Fools’ Day was reason enough to make a non-joke announcement of a miniseries of Mr. T Versus comics.

Also included were covers for Mr. T Versus Dinosaur Man and two “to be announced” ones hinting at Wolverine and Dr. Who that I figure will never get past the basic concept. Ah, well. I’ll still take that Dracula comic.

Next time, I’ll finish up my look at Mr. T’s comic book self with a bunch of comics that aren’t really about Mr. T, but close enough. You know, the comics based on the movie based on the TV show that had Mr. T. That counts, right? No? Whatever, I’m doing it anyway.

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2 comments to “Mr. T Comic Book Jibba Jabba: Part Five”

  1. Have you considered trying to get in touch with T’s people for an interview?

  2. That cover for Mr. T vs. Dracula might be the most awesome thing I have ever seen!