Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Complete Al's Baby

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 Complete Al's Baby (Rebellion, 2010).

I can't tell you how pleased I am to have all of this ridiculous, violent and incredibly funny series collected at last. Al's Baby, originally developed for an anthology comic called Toxic and later to appear in three runs in the 1990s in the pages of Judge Dredd Megazine and 2000 AD, is just hilarious, a great, big goofball saga about a situation that keeps getting, hilariously, worse on every other page. It's like the bonebreaking, criminal counterpart to John Wagner's wonderfully over-the-top work on my beloved Robo-Hunter.

In the near future, Al Bestardi is the number one enforcer for an aging, very cranky mobster who rules Chicago, and who gave Al permission to marry his daughter, Velma. But the old man is getting older, and Al has not given the godfather a grandson to carry on the family line. The remarkably violent Velma flat-out refuses - it would interfere with her career as the nation's worst torch singer - and so Al faces either concrete boots for letting down the godfather or the unappealing prospect of male pregnancy. Soon, he's hitting for two, much to the amusement of his peers and rivals in the business.

The series is just huge fun, and is nutty in the very best way. The second storyline, in which Al attempts to arrange the accidental death of a surprising family rival who just refuses to die, is probably my favorite. I used to think that the third and final story was comparatively a little weak, but it's revealed itself upon rereading to be another real blast, with Al hiding out as a deeply ugly woman who nevertheless attracts a scatterbrained suitor.

The artwork is provided by Carlos Ezquerra, and I think this is absolutely some of his best work. It's not merely the mix of truly ugly men with hilariously huge noses and ears and absurdly gorgeous women, but his pacing and his slow burns, reaching a pinnacle in the third story when Al spends the entire story getting progressively and hilariously furious and ready to snap. The third story also features some of the experimental computer coloring that Ezquerra was playing with in the mid-90s, and it's always really interesting to see this style from him.

Put another way, there's never been a time when the teamup of Wagner and Ezquerra didn't result in really great comics, and this terrific book is packed full of the proof. It's a riot, and it's really well presented. The reproduction, on very nice paper, is excellent, and having the complete series in one volume is really wonderful. This was absolutely one of the best collected editions released last year, and certainly comes highly recommended.


Anonymous said...

Your review is what pushed me to finally try and acquire this comic :) I posted a review over at Fandomania after reading it this weekend. SO GOOD!

G.G. said...

I am glad that you liked it! Thanks for letting me know about it.