All good stories about ninjas who are also doctors must eventually come to an end. Such is the case when creator Chris Hastings announced earlier this month that the current arc of this series (currently being serialized at www.drmcninja.com) will be its last. I’m cool with that. You can only sustain inspired craziness like this for so long and the fact that he’s been doing it for nearly a decade now boggles the mind. Better to quit while you’re ahead and, “King Radical” shows that’s still the case as the Doc gets serious about getting Rad. Based on the solicitation text for this volume, I was expecting a zany riff on “Sleeper” as Doc goes undercover in King Radical’s organization and starts to come around to his quarry’s way of thinking. That doesn’t happen. What does happen involves the King of All Hobos becoming the Mayor of Cumberland, Doc’s mom getting hit with a mummy’s curse, Gordito enrolling in middle school, Dr. McLuchador, a giant robot with a most unusual power source, and the revivifyingly radical effects of Mountain Dew Code Red.
It’s a surreal, outlandish, and utterly ridiculous experience in the best tradition of this series. Best of all is that Hastings never lets the narrative fly completely off the handle into nonsense. What you get here may be really goddamn weird, but it still works on its own terms. Case in point: When King Radical explains his personal history and it winds up being all sorts of bizarre, funny, and even kind of sad. He may be the most radical man in this radical land, and yet the world he came from was the most radical of all. Now he’s stuck in this half-rad world and doing his best to try and make it a little more like home. King Radical actually comes off as kind of tragic here and still the villain as his plans endanger the lives of everyone in Cumberland. Of course, this is still a story where a couple of pizza-making analogues for the Mario Bros. have to deliver a hundred golden cockatrice sausage pizzas in half an hour through a fiendish gauntlet of Bad Dudes (and a tiger). So don’t fear that this series is going to start taking itself seriously anytime soon. Which is good, because with the end in sight I want to see it go out in style.