by J.W. Wargo
GEEEEEEEEEZZZZZZZZUUUUUSSSSSSS CHRIST!!!! Kid Phoenix has been shot! The bastard’s gone to the big strip club in the sky… Or has he? Because of some lightning-induced magic, the exact moment Kid vamoosed, little baby Jaydon arrived. Cute little fucker with his slicked-back hair, his 5 o’clock shadow, and his… his birthmark of a buxom woman that says I “heart” Snatch? Holy greasy shit on a Dead Cow Burger!
Babies’ first words aren’t usually so profane, or so articulate. His parents, and Jaydon himself, are more than a little confused. A chance encounter with one of Phoenix’s old henchman helps inject some of his past life back into him like a hit of pure China White. With the memories come pain, and the baby wants vengeance
Marrowburg is a cockroach infestation of criminals. Political assassination is a day at the park for its denizens, and if you aren’t committing a crime you’re probably a cop or senior citizen. Jaydon’s gonna have to baby step his way through this, but no tit milk in the world is gonna stop him from finding the cocksucker who pulled the trigger.
Jaydon/Kid Phoenix as a protagonist is an interesting choice for this story and even felt a little like his own antagonist. At times, I felt Ram was more of a compelling character. But this isn’t a story about change, it’s a story about revenge.
I guess I just liked Ram more. He had a heart, his brain was just a little slow keeping up with it. He was the only one who bothered to show up at the hospital the night Kid was murdered. He could have sought revenge on his own, but instead, he quietly packed up and moved out to the suburbs, getting a fast-food job and trying his best to forget about his former life.
On the other side of the fence, another interesting character I feel was quite compelling despite only showing up midway through the book was Officer Bertrand Kropp. Celebrating his 100th birthday and 80th+ year on the force, Bertrand is set to finally retire at the end of the day. His career, though long, feels incomplete. When a phone call comes in about a murder, it sets off his “gift” of second sight and he vows to find the killer or die trying.
If I found one common thread among the characters of the book, it was this idea of completion, of setting things “right”, whatever “right” they might personally believe in.
The fact that crime exists does not bother me, nor do I seek its eradication. Rather, it is something about a baby enacting criminal behavior that is slightly unnerving.
That is the point, though. You get so used to Kid Phoenix’s gangster dialogue you forget he is in the body of a toy rattle-shaking, 9-month-old. It isn’t until the toy rattle is jammed halfway down some guy’s throat, and the only sound besides his death gurgle is a baby’s gleeful cooing, that you end up unsure whether to laugh or vomit.
That is the sign of a good Bizarro book and speaks volumes to Mr. Skahill’s abilities. Generally, comedy is a more relaxing form of entertainment. The treatment given to this story’s situational humor, and to the character of Jaydon himself, is agitating enough to leave a question mark at the end of each laugh. It gives one the sense that the author just might be messing with you.
I imagine Skahill gives a sly grin every time he hears someone say they’re going to read his book.
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J.W. Wargo is a writer and author of his own NBAS book, Avoiding Mortimer, which was slated to be the next Oprah Book Club selection until it was discovered the author hadn’t made any of it up. You can read about all the crazy shit he gets into while hitchhiking the world over at Imperial Youth Review.