The overall thoughts first.
Unlike many Doctor Who fans who believe the modern series would benefit from an additional 25 minutes per story of running around being captured and escaping over and over again (to add “depth” donchaknow) I generally feel there’s nothing that can’t be improved by tightening it up. That’s not the case for this collection, which is a very rare thing.
Indeed, largely I would have preferred a touch more room for development in almost every tale herein, when it sometimes feels like the story is over just as it’s getting going. But this is not a complaint; more an observation about the nature of a really good short story.
The book also does a really good job of showcasing the range of genre types that this masked wrestler can employ. Cody is very fond of praising this aspect of lucha movies (I can’t speak to this myself, having only seen or two – loved Misterio en las Bermudas personally) and it’s good to see this carried through, but never straying from the overall spirit and tone of Señor 105 stories in general. Since “modern day” to Señor 105 is the early 70s, many of these tales deliberately riff on the type of fiction of the era, which works really well.
Onto the stories themselves:
“Señor 105 contra el Bigote de Perdición” by Lawrence Burton
No relation to me, by the way, despite our shared surname.
One of the great things about Señor 105 is the way ridiculous stories can be told with absolute seriousness. This has also always been my preferred method of humor in my own writing – to present the absurd with a straight face. And that’s certainly what happens here.
The title explains it all, really. Here, Señor 105 must face a villain with the moustache from hell, who hopes to take over the world by its power. Probably my favorite line of the book (since there are none of Iris Wildthyme’s bad puns in this kind of story) is this approach to hypnotism: “Look deep into my moustache.”
It’s a very fun and imaginative story that kicks off the book very well. The only niggle for me was wondering why “luchador” is consistently spelled with an extraneous “e” tacked onto the end of it for the duration.
“Jackalope” by Cody Quijano-Schell
The creator of Señor 105, and editor of this tome, himself stops by to tell a story – and a very good one. It begins like a 70s horror movie with a couple skinny dipping, only to be attacked by a deadly enemy. But in this case, the killer is the mythical jackalope.
A great story, tying together mysticism from North American natives and more modern myths, with more than a dash of science fiction. It also references past events like those from Ms. Wildthyme and Friends Investigate and the ongoing mystery of Sheila’s origins. (Not the last story in this book to ponder on Sheila’s ancestry, either.)
I admit that I either didn’t get (or, possibly more likely, have already forgotten) the significance of the different types of horn the jackalopes have, but the story works anyway. It’s fun and inventive, and really hits the spot.
“Mechaluchador vs Iguanadios” by Jonathan Dennis
If you couldn’t tell from the title, this story marvellously apes the Japanese kaiju movies – which places it much more in an area that I’m familiar with. (Me being a big fan of Godzilla, Gamera, and the like.) The genres are not dissimilar at all, in fact, having an equal love of the absurd and of random physical contests between iconic adversaries. And Señor 105, like Gamera, is a friend to all children.
In this story, an old mentor of Señor 105’s has left him a gift upon his passing – a giant metal contraption that Señor 105 can steer. A robot luchador.
Which comes in handy when the mob boss responsible for the old man’s death accidentally grows an iguana to monstrous size. Señor 105 must use the machine to prevent the destruction of Reno, and to defeat the gangster who killed his friend.
Like most of these tales, there’s nothing deep and meaningful here, but there is a lot of fun. I can’t imagine anyone not enjoying this story. My brief synopsis alone should be enough to thrill any prospective reader.
“Are You Loathsome Tonight” by Blair Bidmead
This might be my favorite of the collection.
Señor 105 encounters some fear and loathing when he visits Las Vegas, all told through the jittery narration of a drug-addled journalist. No secret what 70s book this story is riffing off of.
In keeping with Hunter S Thompson’s hallucinogenic writings, Señor 105 and friends find Vegas overrun with lizard-men who threaten to tear existence apart. At its center is the embodiment of all the town’s fear and loathing, encapsulated in hideous jumpsuited form. It is this, the (forgive me for giving away the joke) vegaselvisaurus, that Señor 105 must defeat to win the day.
Although the book is part of our culture’s collective consciousness, I have to admit to never having read it. But as far as I can tell, Bidmead (no, not that one) has captured the tone and spirit very well, using not just the rhythms and gimmicks, but the imagery and the ethos of Thompson to tell a perfectly-105 style story. I really adored this, and I think just about everyone will too.
We can’t stop here. This is luchador country.
“Anti-Element” by Julio Angel Ortiz
Some of Señor 105’s mortal enemies band together to arrange for the luchador to be sent to an alternate universe where he will meet an opponent that harnesses the power of anti-matter. For every element of 105’s, this man has an anti-element.
Has Señor 105 finally met his match?
I think this story does a particularly good job of encapsulating the feeling of those lucha movies that inspired the title character. The group of enemies doesn’t feel like the kind of mob meeting that the Joker might waltz into and take over – it feels like the kind of goofy but sinister madhouse that only a low-budget wrestling movie could present. I love it.
There are lots of ideas in here, too. Not only the inspired anti-105 notion, but the computer between universes, and the final Lovecraftian showdown. It’s like the most imaginative comic books all rolled together into one enormously fun short story.
There’s not a whole lot to sink your teeth into exactly, but it’s a blast.
“There and Back Again” by Niamh Petit
Not the Hobbit’s tale by Bilbo Baggins (coming to theatres this December), but a darkly serious story about the end of the world.
A grim story this one, where a young man inadvertently brings about the beginning of the end when he acquires a device from a mystical Chinese man – a device which can manipulate time. His meddling brings a swarm of locust-like aliens upon the Earth who ravage our planet, and even Señor 105 – from any time zone – cannot seem to defeat them.
I enjoyed the turn to seriousness for this story – not every tale can or should be so flippant as the others. My favorite Iris Wildthyme collections usually have some serious entries as well. And this is very grim indeed, but with a heroic light at the end of the very dark tunnel.
Very well told, well written, well conceived, this is a wonderful story and another strong contender (along with “Loathsome”) for the best of the bunch. It really gets down deep into its scenario to let you feel it – eliding the setup and even the resolution, favoring the experience of being bogged down in the apocalypse.
My only quibble is the setting. I know time travel is involved, but it’s a very specific type of time travel which cannot account for the seeming error of 1970s Señor 105 (who must originate before the discovery of Seaborgium in 1974) existing in a time when a device can be thought of as resembling “an old-fashioned DVD remote control”. But that’s a mere trifle, and not a strike against the story, which I loved.
“Glyph” by Joe Curreri
Another tale that’s less flippant than the others, though not so grim and serious as “There and Back Again”. Here, Señor 105 looks for an old mask of his that was lost in defeating an old enemy, only to come up against that enemy’s son, and an ancient and powerful stone that can convert people to its will.
Intriguing and exciting, there’s an almost Doctor Who vibe to this (the glyph creatures would not only fit perfectly into 1970s Who, but the modern show as well – see something like “42”), along with a sort of Indiana Jones slant. The story has several intriguing ideas, and in its short length manages to accomplish quite a lot. From addressing 105’s past, to Sheila’s family, and multiple villains – it’s a great little piece. Loved it.
“DELETED SCENE” by Cody Quijano-Schell
A fun vignette that apparently predates this storybook, it’s just a quick gag about Iris, Panda and Señor 105 taking a time-out between searches for the segments of the Key Lime Pie 2 Time, that form the Celestial Gateau. Short, fun, doesn’t outstay its welcome. I’m very glad it was included.
In the end, this was a nice collection of different approaches to the Señor 105 universe, showcasing the types of story that can be told with the character. Anyone who likes Iris Wildthyme will probably get something out of it, and for those who don’t, I suspect a large proportion of them will too. If you’ve ever liked a Godzilla flick, or any cheezy 60s or 70s B-movie, then give this a go. Fans of the Jon Pertwee Recipe Book , this is also your kind of book. (But is it canon?)
Here’s hoping this won’t be the last book Señor 105 gets to himself. He deserves a lot more.