Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Secondhand bookstore edition with Liberty Meadows and Modesty Blaise

Here's how this works: I finish reading something, and I tell you about it, and I try not to bore you to death. Today: reviews of Liberty Meadows: Eden (Image, 2006) and Modesty Blaise: Bad Suki (Titan, 2005).

I've been curious about Liberty Meadows for a long time, since Frank Cho's art is so wonderful. While he is currently spinning his wheels illustrating turgid Brian Bendis superhero stories for Marvel, he used to draw this newspaper strip about life in an animal sanctuary where the vets are surrounded by a supporting cast of loudmouthed lunatics. The strip eventually evolved into a comic book which Image published, and later repackaged in these handsome, oversized editions. So I found a used copy of Eden in Nashville last month, and my kids adored it, and it's easy to see why it appeals to younger readers. Personally, I didn't see much here that Berke Breathed hadn't already covered. Even the animals' speech patterns reminded me of the critters from Bloom County.

At its best, Liberty Meadows offers some surprises and cultural in-jokes. At its worst, it follows a vet named Frank who can't find the moxie to ask the gorgeous Brandy out, and that tedious subplot gets old instantly. We may call Charlie Brown wishy-washy, but at least he tried to kick that football, you know? On the other hand, if you're a dog lover, you'll probably adore this book. A subplot about a duck named Tyler and his bestest buddy, a non-speaking wiener dog called Oscar is so darn cute I had to brush my teeth afterwards. Recommended if you like children or small dogs.

Of all the Titan reprint series, I get all but two. Modesty Blaise is not on my pull list simply because I find secondhand copies of them practically everywhere. I found this for $10 at Acapella in Little Five Points last month, for instance. Bad Suki is the fifth of the series, and reprints a trio of (about) five-month serials. Of them, the title story is surprisingly the first Modesty Blaise adventure that I have not enjoyed. It's just incredibly dated, and while Peter O'Donnell's incredibly detailed research almost always brings his locations, scenarios and deathtraps to life, this look at Swinging London's drug culture feels as awkward as "Hollywood hippies" from an old Jack Webb show.

The other two stories are very solid and have aged well, and it's always thrilling to see just how well O'Donnell and Holdaway choreographed their fight scenes. A gun battle in "The Galley Slaves" goes on for several utterly absorbing pages and serves as an excellent climax to a great, unpredictable storyline. It's two-thirds' fabulous, at any rate. I certainly recommend Modesty Blaise to anybody looking for classic pulp adventure, but perhaps one of the other editions might be a better introduction to the character than this one.

(Originally posted May 7, 2008 at hipsterdad's LJ.)

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