Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Complete Peanuts 1979-1980

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 Peanuts 1979-1980 (Volume 15) (Fantagraphics, 2011).

I have to say, my enthusiasm for this series is not as high as it was two or three years ago, but the arrival of each new volume is still a wonderful thing. Fantagraphics has passed the halfway point, and their choice of celebrities to write the forewords is as weird as ever. Al Roker, of all people, introduces this one, and he doesn't seem to have anything to say about the actual content of Peanuts at the end of the 1970s.

There's still an agreeable edge to the series at this point - Peppermint Patty's resigned acceptance to a life of D-minuses is really kind of savage - but Charles Schulz was relaxed enough to enjoy a few in-jokes and celebrity shout-outs to the likes of Bill Mauldin and various tennis stars. Most of the supporting cast have drifted completely offscreen by this point, and he hasn't found much to do with any of his new characters. There's a girl named Eudora in several strips in this book, and she only seems to function as somebody who silently stands around while Snoopy's World War One Flying Ace speaks French, badly, towards her. Woodstock picks up four fellow birds - Beagle Scouts - who don't accomplish much beyond a recurring punch line about angel food cake.

Still, when Schulz was on, which was most of the time, there's still enough surreal moments and beautiful artwork to make up for the feeling of complacency among the cast. Taking a few moments to study just how Schulz would draw Lucy at her crabbiest always results in me laughing out loud, and there's a sequence where Schroeder, hoping to attend a music camp, allows himself to be "flown" by doghouse, which is revealed to be extremely funny when we learn that Schroeder's the only one who is not in on the joke. Each time that Schulz started one of his longer, weirder stories like this, readers will find themselves wondering how in the world he resolved it. He succeeded every single time. Surely not the best of the Peanuts volumes, but nevertheless happily recommended.

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