Thursday, November 10, 2005

Graphic Lit -- 10/30

Isn't it funny how backlogged you get after being out of comission for awhile?

No, no it's not funny at all. Here's some comic reviews from two weeks ago.

"Dr . Slump Vol. 1 and 2"
by Akira Toriyama
Viz, 192 pages, $7.99 each.

"Dr. Slump " was Toriyama's first big comic series before creating the widely popular "Dragon Ball" and "Dragon Ball Z." The immense success of that series on these shores has led to "Slump's" arrivalhere, and comic readers are the better for it. "Slump " is nothing short of a manic delight.

The stories center on a socially inept inventor, the young robot girl he creates and a toddler who, it seems, can gobble inorganic matter. They live in a zany anthropomorphic world where just about any object is capable of getting up and dancing, time travel is a piece of cake and animals can be swatted down with oversized exclamation points.

Although frequently hilarious and thoroughly delightful, "Slump "may scare off parents due to its occasional scatological and mildly sexual content (the inventor has an occasional fetish for women's underwear). That's a shame, since it's probably kids who will most appreciate the books' goofy energy. If nothing else, "Dr. Slump " tells me that I need to get more acquainted with "Dragon Ball Z."

"The Pin-Up Art of Bill Wenzel"
edited by Alex Chun and Jacob Covey
Fantagraphics Books, 200 pages, $18.95.

Here is yet another collection of saucy girlie cartoons from Fantagraphics, this time focusing on the relatively unknown but surprisingly prolific Bill Wenzel.

Wenzel isn't as assured an artist as previous featured cartoonists Jack Cole or Dan DeCarlo -- his lines seem too rushed at times -- but his gags largely manage to hit the mark, if in a quaintly sexist way.

It's hard to imagine this collection offending today's jaded consumers when so much more salacious material is readily available and tenaciously pervasive. Still, if you think you can include yourself in that category, then you might want to pass on this book. Fans of this series, meanwhile, will enjoy this lovingly designed package.

"Why Do They Kill Me?"
by Tim Kreider
Fantagraphics Books, 202 pages, $14.95.

This is the second collection of political cartoons from Kreider's weekly strip. The artist makes no bones about his feelings for the current administration, and those who have even a smidge of sympathy for Dubya will no doubt be heartily outraged by Kreider's relentless and cheerfully mean-spirited attacks. He's at his best, though, when skewering American culture, as in his "Freedom"series, where he shows average Americans casually abusing their constitutional rights.

As funny as much of Kreider's work can be, however, ultimately, he doesn't have much to say beyond "Bush is an idiot." What's more, his need to constantly portray himself and his friends in his cartoons, as well as the extensive and unnecessary notes that accompany each drawing, is annoying. Kreider vitriol is impressive, and he uses it to strong comedic effect, but being angrier than your average mainstream editorial cartoonist doesn't necessarily make you any more insightful.

"The Dead Boy Detectives"
by Jill Thompson
Vertigo, 144 pages,$9.99.

This spin-off from Neil Gaiman's popular "Sandman" series eschews the latter's gloomy fantasy style in favor of an effervescent manga-like approach. In the story, Rowland and Paine, two tween-age ghosts with a serious Sherlock Holmes jones, investigate a mysterious disappearance at an all-girls boarding school. Much goofiness ensues, including the inevitable cross-dressing sequence.

Thompson is obviously very familiar with most manga tropes and incorporates them here to good effect. Yes, the book is a trifle, but it's a pleasant trifle, and one that will likely appeal to "Sandman" fans as well as manga junkies.

Copyright The Patriot-News, 2005


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