Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Big Nate: From the Top

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 Big Nate: From the Top (Andrews-McMeel, 2010).

Part of me likes this book a lot, but another part is really unsatisfied with it. I had quite forgotten about Lincoln Peirce's Big Nate, a newspaper strip that used to appear in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution but was dropped by that paper in the late nineties. I'm glad to see that it's still running. Sort of a slightly older Calvin (of and Hobbes) with more friends and a larger rogues' gallery of teachers, Nate is a sixth-grade menace with big plans and a loud mouth. It's quite an amusing comic, and I enjoyed rediscovering the character, most especially a bizarre week-long series where Nate shows his friends and classmates the therapeutic power of being gently bopped in the head with an empty plastic soda bottle.

From an editorial standpoint, this book's a real treat. Unlike just about any other mass-market paperback collection of comics, this purports to include a complete run of about seven months of comics, from late August 2006 into the following April, and even notes that in the opening indicia. Andrews-McMeel certainly never gave FoxTrot or any of their other reprinted strips that kind of attention to detail.

On the other hand, the book's design is a complete disaster. Apparently hoping to evoke the feel of the classic Peanuts paperbacks, this reprints a single strip per page, despite being a considerably larger (taller and wider) book. There's a lot of wasted space on each page, and simply reducing the size of the art would have allowed two daily strips per page and nearly twice the content. Perhaps the size is meant to attract young buyers who'd like to shelve it alongside the similarly-themed Diary of a Wimpy Kid series? As far as value for money goes, I simply can't back the $10.99 retail price at all. It's a quality strip, but not a quality reprint. Recommended if you can find it on sale.

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