Saturday, August 2, 2008

Put One of These Books Back on the Shelf

Here's how this works: I finish reading something, and I tell you about it, and I try not to bore you to death. This time, reviews of Put the Book Back on the Shelf (Image, 2006) and Dr. Slump vol. 15 (Viz, 2008).

Well, it's very difficult to come up with a review for this. I read a good chunk of Neal's copy of the similar Tori Amos collection Comic Book Tattoo and was equally stumped as to how to convey it. It's an anthology book inspired by various songs, in this case by the often wonderful Belle & Sebastian. It is nice to get a really broad sweep of material from all across the spectrum, ranging from impossibly cute little sunshiny strips with cartoony animals ("Legal Man" by Joey Weisner) to challenging, oblique pages of expression without narrative ("Fox in the Snow" by Jacob Magraw). On the other hand, I kind of want plot in my comics, and not expression either without narrative, or with it utterly obscured by the layout and presentation.

Most of the strips, mercifully, go for the obvious and feature definable characters in their early twenties, and most of them are pretty good, but some kind of editorial control still would have been nice - a couple of these stories don't actually end, they just seem to stop when they hit their page count. Overall it is a pretty good book and never less than interesting. It's always nice to see work by the very talented Laurenn McCubbin - who also has some pages in Comic Book Tattoo, I noticed - and I'm pleased to say I enjoyed Chris Butcher's script for "Expectations," which is turned into a story of backstabbing in the teen-publishing market, a whole lot. This one was illustrated by Kalman Andrasofsky & Ramon Perez and might be my favorite art in the book. I'd love to see more of Andrzsofsky's work, which is, I think, the most important thing about reading a book like this. It's one thing to go in saying, "oooh, Laurenn McCubbin, I loved her stuff in Rent Girl," but you should also leave finding another creator of whom you want to see more. Recommended for older readers, especially if you like Belle & Sebastian.

On the other hand...

What is this shit?

I considered continuing for many, many more paragraphs than that, but nobody ever read the rest of Greil Marcus's review of Self Portrait; the opening sentence said it all. But to explain briefly why I react in this way, let me continue.

Don't get me wrong; regular readers know that I'm a huge fan of Akira Toriyama's Dr. Slump, and think every home, especially the ones with elementary school-aged kids, should have the first 14 volumes on the shelf. But suddenly there's this cute baby called Turbo who can do anything in the cast. Every panel feels like the work of a creator who just does not care anymore - he was clearly burning out his contracted time getting ready for Dragon Ball at this stage. I did not laugh once.

And this baby? The producers of The Simpsons might have thought that, in "Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie," they were creating the ultimate parody of an obnoxious cute sidekick added to a show and ruining it instantly, but they had no idea that Toriyama had already done it, and a hundred times worse, and he wasn't parodying anything. Volumes 1-14 are recommended. Stop there. There's a sixteenth coming out in a couple of months. You probably won't want that, either.

(Originally posted August 02, 2008 at hipsterdad's LJ.)

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