May 3, 2014

#25 Attack of the Mutant

Judging a Book by its Cover

Attack of the Mutant! Attack of the pretty generic super hero, or more it seems from the tagline, a super villain. He doesn't look like much of mutant to me. He looks pretty normal, just costumed. He has a pretty plain mask and cape. It's evident that when he wants to make a statement he does so with his architecture. Look at that bright pink and neon green building behind him, what a beauty! Such a stunning tower clearly would need that barbed wire fence to keep admirers away.

Now the back tagline says, "read at your own risk." Is it talking about this book? Or the book within a book? OR BOTH? So clearly we got a kid who likes his comic books, and one of the characters somehow comes off the pages and runs a muck. Is a guy who dresses in a costume to portray this villain at birthday parties, secretly actually have powers? Does lightning strike the comic book and somehow bring it to life? Is there a genuine "super hero" in real life who turns out to be a villain? Nah, that's too interesting, I'm sure it'll be something much dumber. Let's see!

Getting Goosebumps

Skipper Matthews is the star of this book. He's a pudgy nerd that collects comic books. The worst part is he doesn't even read the comic books, he just collects them as an investment. He never takes them out of their bags, except for one. Apparently he just has to read The Masked Mutant. For some reason this comic is named for the villain rather than the heroes, who are in the League of Good Guys. Despite having the most generic names ever, apparently this series is the best comic of all time (according to Skipper.) Now which good guys choose to face off against the Masked Mutant? Only the greatest heroes ever like, the Sponge of Steel and the Galloping Gazelle... Wait, why does this kid like this comic again?

So the problem with Skipper is that he isn't even the good kind of nerd. He's not that smart, and is doing pretty poorly in school. His little sister Mitzi narcs on him for reading his comics instead of doing home work and apparently his dad is not a fan of his son wasting all his time and money on the darn things. But he is a bit of a blow hard it seems, and never follows through with throwing all of them out. Skipper blows through his homework so he can finally get back to the Masked Mutant.

So the Mutant can apparently change his molecules to be anything... except he always has the
same mask. So when he is an octopus grappling with SpongeLife (The Sponge of Steel!) it is a bit of a give away when this mollusk has a mask. The exciting thing about this issue though is that they finally show the headquarters of the Masked Mutant. Oh boy! And it looks like a bright pink fire hydrant! Not just a mutant, but a stylish one too it seems. Naturally the comic book ends in a cliffhanger when it is revealed that the Galloping Gazelle is somehow in the headquarters.

Now, because Skipper is a nerd, he wears braces. He has to get them adjusted so he takes the bus (which he has to chase after.) He meets a fellow comic book collector on the bus named Libby. The problem is, she doesn't read the good stuff, she reads High School Harry and Beanhead. I assume this is a parody of Archie and Jughead? Regardless, that shit doesn't fly with ol' Skip. In the heated discussion about the lameness of her comics he misses his stop so he gets off as soon as he can only to find a building that looks exactly like the Masked Mutant's lair! Unfortunately he has to get to his Orthodontist so he can't check it out.

The next day at school he talks things over with his best friend Wilson. Unlike Skipper, Wilson collects rubber stamps. Not exactly an investment like comic books, but at least he actually uses the damn things. Wilson's plausible idea is that the artist for the comic saw this weird looking building and went on to model Masked Mutants HQ after it. So later Skipper goes to check the building out again but this time... it's gone. Libby shows up and Skipper gets conned into browsing her Harry and Beanhead collection before going home to find the new issue of the Masked Mutant has arrived. In this issue it is revealed that he has concealed his headquarters... with an invisibility shield! Curious...

Of course he has to go back. Naturally he meets Libby again and convinces her to investigate the vacant lot. The thing is, when they get close enough the building reappears! Libby, however, doesn't seem convinced that something odd is up. It is clearly just one of those cloaking office buildings. Skipper decides to take the elevator up, but it goes down. All the way down to the basement! The kids are a bit scared but after looking around skipper finds a room with art and printing tools for the Masked Mutant. Just when things are starting to make sense he finds a portrait of... himself. Libby wont be convinced of it though. In fact she wont even look at the page. She is committing to leaving, and Skipper joins her.

Later, while Wilson shows off the "best of the best" of his rubber stamps, Skipper tries explaining what happened. The kid didn't quite follow, and Skipper kicked his best friend out so he could think alone. Just then the new episode of the Masked Mutant arrives and guess who is in it as the Mutants new foe? Skipper! He tried to explain this to his folks but like typical parents they didn't listen.

So he heads to the building again. Of course, he has to! No Libby to join him this time. He is all alone, though he hears some strange noises. It's... The Galloping Gazelle! All tied up. He's real! And in trouble! So
the kid unties him and the Gazelle acts like you'd expect a bad comic character to act. He doesn't seem to understand that Skipper has no super human abilities. He needs him to jump a ways, to get past a disintegrater  ray, but Skipper slams right into it. Luckily It wasn't turned on.

Finally they find the Masked Mutant himself. The Gazelle unleashes his brilliant plan of running around in circles really fast. Seriously. Apparently this will create a tornado or something but his plan was foiled by the Mutant Sticking his foot out to trip him. Curses, his only weakness! In true Hero fashion, the Gazelle runs away and leaves a poor defenseless kid to fend for himself. Then Libby shows up and seems oblivious at first until the Mutant moves in for the kill. She pulls out a toy gun she calls a molecule melter, seemingly playing along with the nonsense. But then the Masked Mutant really does melt! It was a real molecule melter! And Libby is really none other than the REAL Masked Mutant Apparently the person he melted was the Magnificent Molecule Man, one of his hired goons.

The Masked Mutant tells the boy that he is now a comic book character. When he passed into this lair there was a beam that made him nothing more than ink on a page. So Skipper tries to outsmart the real Masked Mutant. He goes for convincing him that he is Elastic Boy. And Elastic Boys only weakness is sulfuric acid. Oops, he shouldn't have let that slip... or should he? Masked Mutant turns into acid and then sizzles on the floor. It seems he can turn into anything solid, but once he turns liquid he can't turn back! Skipper won! And he doesn't give a shit about comics anymore! Screw the Masked Mutant! The new issue arrives and he doesn't give a single fuck. Then he accidentally cuts his finger and bleeds... ink. Maybe he should check out that comic book after all...

What I Thought

What, so the super evil Masked Mutant, a grown man of sorts, turns into a little tween girl to hang out with an 11 year old boy? Somehow that seems way more sinister than I think Stine intended. Murdering Skipper would be like the least evil thing he could do! But anyway, I always just straight to the end of the book because that is the first thing in my mind after writing it all up. Lets talk about some other things.

First, since this is a comic book based book, Stine brought up a lot of comics. I find it interesting that he included both real and fake ones. Among the fakes were Penguin People, Silver Swan (there is a Wonder Woman character named this, but it is not the same), Star Wolf, and Z-Squad (X-Men parody?) The real ones mentioned were Captain America and Spawn... Which seems like an odd combo. I find it queer that he mentioned so many fake ones and then threw in real one. Like, I get the Masked Mutant and all those characters associated with it had to be fake. But why throw in stuff like Star Wolf and Silver Swan that seems real but isn't, and then mention Captain America and Spawn. Are those the only 2 comic franchises he is aware of?

Anywho. The comic book aspect was interesting, and unique. After so many monters, mummies, and ghosts, a Super Hero related Goosebumps was kinda fresh. Making Skipper a bit of a tubby nerd was a nice touch. The characters in these books are so seldom unique in any particular way. He even went the extra mile and made him collect comics for worth instead of enjoyment (except the Masked Mutant.) So that would make kids who actually like comic books even think he is a lame wad.

The problem is, making a comic book based story scary. I mean these books are supposed to be scary, sorta, right? So the key is making a good villain I feel. A guy who could turn into anything opens up a lot of possibilities. In fact they had TWO guys who could turn into anything. Besides turning back into a large ferocious feline, they don't use that much at all. The problem with Stine seems to be, once the bad guy shows up he has to end the damn book immediately. Let the kid struggle with things a bit!

The bad guy being Libby was a decent enough twist for a kid's book (though creepy like I have stated.) But then you have stamp collecting Wilson who is pretty much unnecessary to the story. He only exist to prove that Skipper has a friend, and to show off alternate hobbies in stamp collecting.

So, a book like this... It kinda makes me wish I could read a better version of this book. A world in which a Super Hero and Villain are real, but only known to one particular kid opens up so many possibilities! It seems like Stine really only goes for the laziest ones though. Kids have a heck of an imagination. They could have done so much more with this book!

Still, I gotta judge it for what it is. It is unique in its theme amongst Goosebumps books, and maybe that is enough.

Rating: 2 out of 5 super villains

Up Next

My Hairiest Adventure. It's about a kid who gets hairy... or something. I seem to recall the kid using some sort of potion or something to get hairy. I mean, I assume he doesn't want to be hairy on purpose, it backfires or something? I don't know, we'll see!

Also, apparently they made a PC Game based on Attack of the Mutant. I never played it as a kid. I never even knew it existed. Now, however, I want to play it. I mean, who wouldn't want to play it? I can't imagine it will be any good. Still, how can I not be enticed? I have no idea if I can actually find a copy, but if I do I promise to let you know how it goes.

Until next time!