Swag and Swagger

The Book of Bart - Ryan Hill

”What greater hope for humanity than an angel and a demon teaming up to save the world. That’s Lifetime movie of the week stuff right there.”

“You shut your filthy mouth with that kind of talk!”

 

Well it was entertaining, there’s that.

 

Stories centred on a wisecracking, arrogant, douchebag of a character is quite hard to pull because it takes a very particular and balanced measure of wit, timing and chemistry with the supporting cast to actually sell the whole thing. This succeeded in some, but faltered in more. Because, I have to be honest, it takes very little for me to buy into the charm of an asshole narrator, but this was a bit messy on the plot’s delivery, the world building was pretty spare and the running jokes ran beyond its limits and crossed the Still Funny-Just Plain Annoying border.

 

The Book of Bart starts with our protagonist being dragged out of the Seventh Circle of Hell to team up with Samantha, an angel-in-training tasked to root out the miscreants from hell looking for The Shard of Gabriel, a piece of the archangel’s mirror that bestows God’s Wisdom on its bearer. The logistics of that deal was quite hazily explained but Bart was specifically chosen because of his near successful attempt at obtaining The Shard aeons ago had led to his fall from grace.

 

Together with a descendant of the Knight’s Templars, the trail leads them to High School, a melting pot of demons and unsuspecting and willing victims alike, where their villain is hiding in plain sight. To get to the bottom of this confusing mystery, Bart and friends has to maneuver through friends, foes, Lucifer and family and a moody, LOST-like smoke monster who just can’t seem to quit ruining his swag.

 

Admittedly Bartholomew was an amusing narrator. Not quite handling the charm as well as Dante Walker but he does give good chuckling. I suppose his claims at his influence towards shaping human history (from Hurricane Katrina to Shakespeare to Galileo) was cute to a certain extent and his stereotypical male proclivities - from naming his car to his Barney Stinson-like obsession towards suits to defiling virgins - counted for a few good laughs.

 

I just wished he’d stop harping about them over and over.

 

 

Oh, GAD!

 

His repertoire feels a little restricted towards those things, Hitler and Judas (seriously, the amount of Hitler jokes just piled on and on and on). Those horses are dead by the sixth go-around, dude, move on and do the funnying elsewhere.

 

 

There was also a lot of alpha posturing and arrogant swagger from El Barto which made him getting beaten up hilarious at first, but gradually devolving to pity when his sole purpose in the story is to get his ass whooped. He really came across pathetic with all the lip service he never seemed to deliver on.

 

The supposed sexual tension between him and Sam was lukewarm at best and I can’t really distinguish between the two of them who’s at fault in that department. There were points in the story that felt too convenient and eye roll worthy when it should be something that would crackle with delicious chemistry. If anything, I enjoyed the dynamic between Bart and Josh more.

 

”What did the dipshit do this time?” I asked.
“I’m right here, I can speak for myself,” he said.
I folded my arms. “What did you do this time, dipshit?”

 

The world building felt a little lazy and the operating logic a little too non-existent. Sam’s abilities seems to be enough of an ultimate solution to nearly everything, one has to question all the trouble and difficulty they have encountered. Couldn’t she have just used that nifty abilities to get out of those snags? And I am a little weirded out by Sam’s crusade on going after the creatures who are looking for The Shard. The direction of their overall mission lacked an element of urgency (I mean, they don’t have it yet right?) and a certain degree of overkill was at play in what it implies. It’s a lot like firemen killing those fire dancers by the beach because they’re a risk at setting people on fire.

Speaking of fire.

The last float had to have been mandated by the school. I’d heard there’d been a case of arson here last year. I guess the school wanted to keep the memory of the tragedy fresh in people’s minds, because this float simply said that we need to KICK ARSON’S BUTT. It featured students crying over a burnt-out building. So touching.

 

WHAT IS THIS GREENDALE COMMUNITY COLLEGE??? I smell a bit of Abed and Troy in that effort.

 

 

 

The delivery of the Angels and Demons mythology here was pretty skewed towards the Catholic faith weaponizing holy water, crucifixes, even a pope’s robe. Which does make for excellent fantastical imagery, though I wish there was better complexity given the interpretation of the creatures of heaven and hell, beyond an absolutist version of good and evil.

 

I do get the feeling that this wasn’t intended to be enjoyed by reading deeper than Bart’s one-liners and punchlines. The plot barely made sense, the characters were passably tolerable and the promise of this becoming a series doesn’t make me want to gouge my eyes out. Dante still pwns Bart in terms of swag and in knowing how to use it, but when all the mindless chuckles have been counted, I suppose this is a book worthy of not getting judged by its cover (because seriously, comic booked and Jersey-tanned Carson Daly is giving me the creeps).

 

Review Copy courtesy of Curiosity Quills. Quotes taken from Uncorrected Proof.