Monday, June 20, 2011

The Taxidermist

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 Taxidermist (Rebellion, 2011).

Well, I am very happy to see this book finally out. There are so few comics available to star a protagonist as elderly as this one - in the first story of three collected here, taxidermist Jacob Sardini is in his seventies - and I am all for any feature that bucks the trend of dashing macho, he-man lead characters quite the way this one does. Sardini is an aging, overweight widower who figures that his glory days are all behind him, but sometimes events have a way of sweeping even the elderly up in their wake.

This is one of several collections that the publisher Rebellion has recently released that shows just how wonderful the world of Judge Dredd is for launching new characters and ideas. In the weird future of Mega-City One, human taxidermy is not only legal, but accepted enough that it's become an Olympic sport, along with some other downright ridiculous pastimes, as the stories reveal as they unfold. In the opening story, we meet Sardini, who had brought home the bronze for taxidermy twenty years previously, as he is contacted again by a mobster to whom he owns a favor. The mobster's son was killed in the first step of a new gang war, and he wants Sardini to stuff his boy, and the fellows that he brought down, without the law learning about it.

This story originally appeared in 1987, and it was six years before Sardini returned. This much longer tale is one of the finest stories that writer John Wagner and artist Ian Gibson have so far produced, a ridiculous and epic farce that sees Sardini representing his city in the Olympics again, with ugly politics shaping up behind the scenes. Wagner has always enjoyed mocking the world of sports - his and Gibson's brilliant takedown of the World Cup in a 1982 Robo-Hunter story is something that everybody should read - and everything about the Olympics, from the gaudy opening ceremonies to the competitions to the inane commentary by the television crews, is wonderfully and hilariously skewered. I think about this story quite frequently, as every single instance where I am consciously aware that I am blinking, I think of Agnes "Laser Gaze" Boulton, who features in just about the funniest thing I have ever seen on the printed page. Rebellion could probably charge the same price for a reprint of just her short subplot and I'd end up recommending it.

Rebellion's design team has done its by-now-expected excellent work. The book contains all of Sardini's appearances, along with a short cover gallery. Reproduction is just about flawless, on good, heavy paper. Overall, it's a very funny and occasionally touching story that goes off in unexpected directions and it's in a terrific package. What more could anybody want? Very highly recommended.

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