Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Devil's Panties Volume One

What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of The Devil's Panties Volume One (self-published, 2010).

Hmmm. Here's the second time in thirty days that an autobiographical comic shows up on the Bookshelf. Unlike Emitown, however, The Devil's Panties by Jennie Breeden is done as a daily gag strip. My wife visited Breeden's table at Dragon*Con and thought that I might enjoy one of her books and she was right. This is a pretty funny strip, and I like the way that the artist is willing to bang something out for her page using whatever tools are available. One or two of these strips look like they were done using a single thick-lined pen for both the art and lettering, enhancing the fun, anything-goes DIY feel. It's not exceptional, but it's amusing.

I like Breeden's character designs and the "Jennie" stand-in for herself, a short and incredibly silly girl who works at a comic shop in Atlanta and hangs out at a fetish club. Her moral quandaries are debated with little angel and devil girls on either shoulder.

It's a funny strip but, by its nature, very full of inside jokes that Breeden's friends and buddies are going to get and enjoy more than the rest of us. There are also strips that recount an amusing incident but can't pay it off with a fourth-panel punch line. There's a memorable strip where a mom brings her sons and daughter into the comic book store where "Jennie" works, sends the boys off to pick books and tells the girl that she can't have any, because comics are for boys. There's a meter and beat that four-panel gag strips should have, and that usually ends with a punch line payoff in panel four that completes the story or sets up the next series of four. If "Wow, your customer sure was dumb" is all the payoff you can offer, your strip is short a panel.

Put another way, I have no doubt that the real-world Breeden has more fun than any twelve people you know. If the infectious, carefree, chocolate-loving Jennie of the comic is a fair representation of her, then we could all stand to have more people this vibrant and funny in our lives, but the best character in the world in the most entertaining settings doesn't necessarily translate into a series of good stories. As a life, The Devil's Panties is a blast, but as a strip, it could use some editing. It's periodically baffling, too. I have no idea what is happening in the strip on the top of page 55.

Production of the book is very nice. It's a chunky 280 pages, with some very amusing "activity book"-styled supplements and commentary. It's not a strip that I can embrace completely, but I admire it for what it is and will read more of it. Recommended if you like Girls With Slingshots or Sinfest.

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