Graphic Lit -- 1/30
"Plastic Man: On the Lam"
by Kyle Baker
DC Comics, $14.95.
In revamping Jack Cole's classic rubbery superhero, Kyle Baker ("Why I Hate Saturn," "The Cowboy Wally Show") draws more inspiration from Bugs Bunny and the Cartoon Network than the original 1930s comic book. The result is the most goofy, freewheeling comic DC has published in a long time.
"On the Lam," which collects the first few issues of the series (where Plas is wanted for a crime he didn't commit), is a nonstop, overcaffeinated gagfest, where no joke is too silly or irreverent to be included. I'm not fond of Baker's reliance on computer fonts instead of hand lettering, and Plas' current universe seems a lot less populated than Cole's, but this collection is nevertheless an impressive achievement: a work that hearkens back to its creator without becoming a pale imitation.
"Attitude Featuring: Andy Singer"
128 pages, $10.95
The "Attitude" series, which has produced compilations of alternative and small press strip and editorial cartoonists, now realigns itself toward slim, square books that focus on a single artist.
The first collection features Andy Singer, whose blocky single-panel cartoons deal with corporate malfeasance, environmentalism and modern technology. It's an engaging and witty collection. Singer is snarky enough that you wouldn't confuse his strip with "Ziggy." Yet he's mild enough that you can hang his cartoons in your cubicle without fear of reprisal.
"Krachmacher Number One"
by Jim Campbell
48 pages, $6.50
This Xeric Grant-winning cartoonist possesses an extremely likable, rubbery art style and oddball sense of humor that make you want to like his work. Unfortunately, the main story in this collection, "On the Shore," is written in such a deliberately awkward and obtuse fashion that one's enjoyment factor is whittled away significantly. Hopefully, his future work will be more engaging.
"Swan Vol. 1"
by Ariyoshi Kyoko
CMX Manga, 200 pages, $9.95
Young Masumi dreams of becoming a ballerina in the worst way. It seems like her wishes will come true when she is invited to enter a nationwide dance competition -- one which will lead to the formation of Japan's first ballet company. She quickly discovers, however, that she's the weakest student in the group, due to a lack of proper training. Can she pull herself up by her bootstraps enough to become a professional? The answer to that question should be fairly obvious, but "Swan" nevertheless manages to be an entertaining saga that fans of dance will enjoy.
"Dolls Vol. 1"
by Yumiko Kawahara
Viz, 200 pages, $9.99
Anyone who gets creeped out by porcelain dolls should probably avoid this collection of short stories, most of which focus on "plant dolls" -- lifelike dolls that eat, sleep, stare and incite obsessive behavior in their owners. The stories range from the disturbing to the highly comical, and Kawahara does a nice job hopping from tone to tone without awkward or jarring shifts. All in all, it's a nice little package for tween girls that should charm its intended audience.
by Joel Priddy
AdHouse Books, 160 pages,$12.95
A robot, minotaur and plant-man are criss-crossing the countryside on an expedition. We don't know where they're heading and never really find out. The characters seem mysterious, though oblique flashbacks hint at pasts filled with longing and sorrow. Priddy's book, with its off-panel references, fantasy milieu, shifts in timeline and formal experimentation risks falling into preciousness and pretension but never does. Instead it strides confidently despite its wandering tone. Suffice it to say that "Pulpatoon" is a lovely, impressive book and Priddy is a cartoonist to watch.
Copyright 2005, The Patriot-News