Stephen Colbert is well known for his satirical news show, “The Colbert Report,” wherein he has previously featured the animated adventures of Tek Jansen. Jansen is a fictional hero who battles alongside the futuristic Alpha Squad Seven as a patriotic space freedom fighter who bears a strong resemblance to Colbert. This series was popular enough to expand into a full comic. Thus was born the Oni Press’s short series of Stephen Colbert’s Tek Jansen comic books. This review focuses on issues #1 and #2.
Issue #1 begins with Colonel Tek Jansen infiltrating and then freeing a group of oppressed and conveniently attractive alien women by stepping on and allowing a large cat to attack their oppressor. After basking in the admiration and gratitude of the ladies, Jansen hops aboard his ship Starskipper, wherein the reader meets his companions—C.A.S.E.Y., his loyal (and usually maligned) robotic monkey skipper, and Meangarr, the amorphous and evil little blob Jansen loves and keeps in a cage as a pet despite the fact that Meangarr is determined to kill Jansen through some foul method of torture.
Jansen is then contacted by Overseeress Braina, a female disembodied brain who appears to be his commanding officer. Braina, like most women in this comic, has clearly fallen frontal lobe-over-brainstem for Jansen, but he rebuffs her advances with the statement that he’s already married “…to every helpless man, woman, and child in this universe!” She chides him for killing a target that he was supposed to capture on his last mission, but eventually clears him to land back at Alphalon-7. Upon arrival, the landing zone is filled with cheering crowds and for once, they are not there to cheer for him; it takes Jansen a couple of pages to realize it. No, the people have gathered to welcome a representative of a race called the Optiklons, who offer to share with them the secrets to eliminating most forms of suffering and the ability to create a utopia in exchange for one micro-percentage of Alphalon-7’s surplus energy.
Jansen, due to a highly developed combat instinct and not at all out of jealousy, is instantly suspicious of this generous proposition, through Braina forbids him from interfering in the situation. Jansen acknowledges the order, then immediately takes the sensible route for handling his disappointment and heads off to go drown his sorrows at a local bar. A quick brawl manages to bolster Jansen’s spirits and he resolves to stop the nefarious Optiklons despite Braina’s orders! Of course, such bravery lands him a beautiful alien woman who Jansen wakes up alongside the next morning. Realizing that he overslept, Jansen straps on his jetpack (and nothing else), grabs his gun, and dashes off to confront the Optiklon representative in front of the planet. He urges the people of Alphalon-7 to consider that “in a world where everybody is cared for, how could you be better than the next guy?” After his heroic declaration that the people cannot allow themselves to face such a terrible fate as true equality he shoots the Optiklon representative, prompting their leader to declare a war which Jansen proudly promises to be ready for.
Issue #2 starts some time after the last issue, with Braina showing multiple planets that have been destroyed by the Optiklons ever since Jansen started the war. Braina angrily tells Jansen that as punishment, he is being demoted and sent back to Alpha U to take his place among the inexperienced cadets. Jansen, of course, assumes that this is a cover story so that he can help teach and inspire the newest generation and cheerfully returns to his alma mater. He enjoys the admirations of many students, particularly females, and has no trouble with any of his classes until a professor begins lecturing on the Techniques of Surrender. Jansen, convinced that no self-respecting Alpha Squad member would ever consider surrendering, attempts to rip the mask off of the imposter professor. Unfortunately, the professor turns out not to have been an imposter, so Jansen rips off his face by accident. Determined to prove his point, Jansen grabs a few cadets, commandeers a shuttle, and heads off to strike first in the deadly Antagoverse, “home of the Antagons, evil duplicates of everyone who exists.” Despite the protest of the scared and uncertain cadets, Jansen presses onward, encouraging his inexperienced crew to engage in both space and ground combat. After a few impressive fights and a run-in with one of his many love interests, Jansen and the surviving members of his crew return to Alpha U, expecting a lecture from the now faceless professor. Much to their surprise though, the professor tells them that the ships they had attacked were Optiklon spies who were seeking deadly weapons in the Antagoverse. Jansen, of course, tells the young cadets that he knew this all along, gaining their respect and admiration for life. The cadets take the lessons of bravery, first strikes, fighting hard at all costs, and refusing to surrender to heart, as evidenced by the final page of the comic where the reader learns that most of them were killed, captured, or permanently traumatized in the following years of the war. Tek Jansen, however, survived them all and swore to avenge them.
This comic is chock-full of Colbert’s usual tongue-in-cheek satire and humor, but manages to take shots at grand concepts such as blind patriotism, loyalty, and hero worship. The comic features many clichés like sidekicks who love the hero no matter how he treats them, companions who the hero loves despite how abrasive they are in return, plot clichés and contrivances common to hero-based comics, and even some of the admittedly stupid naming conventions of the industry. The little character interactions, such as those between C.A.S.E.Y. and Jansen, Meangarr and anyone else, or Jansen and anyone of authority, are pretty funny and keep the reader laughing and interested between the main plot points. These are good comics that have an actual entertaining story that audiences will want to follow, but the issues never take themselves too seriously and play up the satire whenever they can. This work has Stephen Colbert’s signature style and fingerprints all over it. Regardless of whether or not they are regular comic book readers, audiences who enjoy Colbert’s humor or satire in general, and science fiction enthusiasts alike would enjoy this series.