Writer/artist Batton Lash’s most famous, and perhaps strangest, legal eagles, Wolff and Byrd - “Counselors of the Macabre” - are back in Lash’s newest collection of their adventures and court cases, The Soddyssey and Other Tales of Supernatural Law. Picture, if you can, a crazed but often humorous cross between the old comics Eerie and Creepy with characters that might have come from the pages of Archie comic books, and you’ll have an inkling of the wonderful tales and artwork of Lash. Besides his comics featuring Alanna Wolff and Jeff Byrd (and who could forget their secretary, Mavis Munro?), creative genius Batton Lash also has written for
Archie comic books, and there are similarities in the artwork that shine through.
What is perhaps the coolest thing about this collection, and Lash’s Wolff and Byrd stories in general, is the twisted references to cultural icons. For example, the first tale in this collection, “The * Files,” is influenced strongly by - wait for it - TV’s The X-Files. Instead of Mulder the believer and Scully the skeptic, though, the investigators searching for the “Truth” of “What’s Out There” are named Muldoon and Tooty. What they investigate - the alien, the bizarre, the sometimes wacky - are the everyday stuff of reality for Wolff and Byrd.
In this story, Sodd, a Swamp Thing-like creature and the lawyerly pair’s client - as well as a recurring character in this collection - is on trial, but most of the focus of the plot is on another client of Wolff and Byrd’s, Fred Norris. Norris’s daughter, Amy, has gone missing, and Norris blames it on aliens who he claims abducted her. Wolff’s and Byrd’s defense of their client (as always) is spirited (for some reason, “alienated” just doesn’t sound right), and they get the case dismissed when Alanna Wolff points out to the judge:
“But the fact is, at the time of Amy’s disappearance, Fred Norris was at a UFO symposium 40 miles away from his home in New Jersey - something the Grand Jury was never told. Given the timeline, it would have been impossible for Fred to have come home to kidnap his daughter!”
Other references abound, adding to the fun and enjoyment of reading The Soddyssey. Examples include a story about defending a guardian angel who resembles (and shares some mannerisms and expressions of) Jack Benny from the classic black-and-white movie comedy The Horn Blows At Midnight (1945) in the tale “Personal Injuries...& Guardian Angels.” Another features a character who is a horror author named Ayn (“rhymes with ‘dine’”) Wrice, a caricature of the actual horror author Ann Rice, in a story titled “Bad Blood.”
The drawing is top-notch, reflecting Batton Lash’s high level of skills. I would have liked to have read some of these tales inked in color, rather than the entire collection being in black and white, but since they were originally all in black and white, I understand the reason for keeping them as they first appeared. Perhaps one day in the future, Lash might decide to do some Wolff & Byrd tales in color (hint, hint), and I look forward to that day, if it ever comes. Still, in the meantime, this collection is well worth adding to your library of graphic comic literature.
The Soddyssey is no retelling of Homer’s masterpiece, The Odyssey, only similar in that it relates a series of adventures, and in that the name of this collection is almost identical to Homer’s tales of brave Ulysses. Sodd ties the stories together, but only in a very loose way, though he is the star of the last story, “Sodd, We Hardly Knew Ye...” If you’re a fan of ancient Bronze Age Greek literature, you probably ought to search elsewhere for your fix. But if you like ironic, quirky, well-drawn supernatural tales of legal wheeling and dealing, look no further than this collection.