The idea of the interlude issue with a special guest artist is one that has increased in popularity over the years, and it makes sense; let the regular artist have a brief break, but rather than have a random chapter of a story arc look different, have it be a one-off story. That's what we get in "It Girl and the Atomics" #6, where Jamie S. Rich is joined by artist Chynna Clugston Flores. Not only is it a welcome return of Clugston Flores to comics, but this reuniting of the former editor/creator team is good old fashioned fun to boot.
Leaving the regular cast of characters behind this month, "It Girl and the Atomics" instead leaps into outer space where Mr. Gum -- a member of the Atomics -- is on a rock tour with Red Rocket 7 and the other musical members of the Atomics. From there, the super-stretchy drummer both has a romantic encounter as well as getting pulled into a rural group of aliens' attempt to gain access to Paradise.
Rich's story is, at its heart, an old-school style of story where nothing is entirely what it seems, and the hero has to learn what's really going on and re-adjust accordingly. But in many ways, that's part of the fun. The parent title "Madman" always had a nice retro groove to its pages, and I feel like Rich is continuing that sort of tradition here. What's also nice is that neither side are the "bad guys" in the inevitable conflict. Each of them have needs that aren't being met, and in many ways their actions are to try and survive. There's still a distinct right and wrong part of the situation, but Rich makes sure you can see where the wrong group came to the decisions that they did.
Mr. Gum is a character I'm not that familiar with, but I like his lothario/adventurer demeanor. His schmoozing the various ladies at the club is entertaining, but when it's just him and the (strangely nameless) waitress, there's a nice mixture of protector and romancer on display. It's almost as if Pepe Le Pew ditched the accent, got superpowers and became a hero. I'd definitely be on board for a return visit from Mr. Gum.
It's been a while since I've seen a comic from Clugston Flores, so it's a real joy to see her drawing them once more. Her art style is always welcome: with tight, slightly angular lines defining a sleek figure, there's something about it that is just instantly appealing. Her attention to detail on background details that others would miss like clothes is especially on display; I love that we get, for example, multiple outfits for the waitress. Even Ro and Jeth's people have a nice range of looks; a generic uniform is not something that you'll ever see Clugston Flores slap onto a character. Clugston Flores is also good with the bouncing, stretching action of Mr. Gum; he actually feels rubbery here as he elongates and ricochets across the page. All in all, a strong match between script and art.
"It Girl and the Atomics" #6 is a fun little side step away from the main action set back on Earth; if all the interludes are this enjoyable and well-put-together, I don't think anyone will complain too much about not getting another issue drawn handsomely by regular artist Mike Norton. Rich and Clugston Flores clearly had a good working relationship back when Rich was Clugston Flores' editor at Oni Press, and that has continued through to here. If you haven't tried out "It Girl and the Atomics" yet, this is a fun place to start.