Review: Four Books for Pre-Adults
I had a pile of books more-or-less for kids, and thought: why not review them all together? And so I will:
[[[Flight Explorer, Vol. 1]]]
Edited by Kazu Kibuishi
Villard, 2008, $10.00
The popular [[[Flight]]] series, officially for adults but containing a lot of all-ages stories, has spun off a younger sibling. The cast of cartoonists is pretty much the same, and the editor is still Kibuishi, but this book is shorter, cheaper, smaller, and contains many more characters seemingly designed to headline a series of stories.
The stories are all fairly short – there are ten of them in a book just over a hundred pages – long enough to introduce what mostly seem to be series characters and given them a situation to deal with. The cover-featured “[[[Missile Mouse]]],” by Jake Parker gets the most adventurous, and will probably be the most appealing to the boy audience. (There’s nothing obviously aimed at the girl comics-reading audience – or maybe I mean nothing trying to poach some of the manga audience – though there are several strips with female protagonists, like Ben Hatke’s “[[[Zita the Spacegirl]]].”
The art is still mostly clean-lines enclosing solid colors – an animator’s palette – though the book gets more painterly towards the end, in the pieces by Ben Hatke, Rad Sechrist, Bannister, and Matthew Armstrong. It’s all quite professional and fun – all in all, a great book to hand to an 8-12 year old interested in comics.
[[[Dungeon: Zenith, Vol. 1: Duck Heart]]]
By Joann Sfar & Lewis Trondheim
NBM, 2004, $14.95
This series might not be officially for kids – I haven’t been able to get definitive proof either way – but it’s goofy and fun, without too much violence, and so it’s reasonably appropriate for most kids. (It’s also quite talky for an adventure strip, with lots of little panels, so it might be a way to get the l’il rugrats to read more words than they expect.)
This is, I think, the first book in the “Dungeon” series – though there are three or four subseries, one of which is called “The Early Years,” so I’m not completely sure about that. But it is a fine introduction, since it was the first book I read in the series.
The Dungeon is a gigantic fortress, in a fantasy world, filled to the capacious rafters with monsters and treasures of all sorts, so that barbarian heroes can come to win fortune and get killed there. So far, this has been foolproof, but a delegation of strange creatures threaten the Guardian and demand control of the Dungeon. The Guardian sends for a barbarian to fight the creatures, but gets a messenger duck, Herbert, instead.
The usual wacky adventures follow, as Herbert tries to draw his recalcitrant magic sword and needs to be repeatedly rescued by Marvin, another of the Guardian’s servants. That story turns out all right in the end, as does a sequel, in which Herbert actually leans to fight halfway well.
Dungeon is semi-violent – there’s a lot of hacking and slashing, but the blood and guts are all very cartoony, and nobody important gets killed. There’s an awful lot of stuff happening – maybe too much on each page, for my taste – and Sfar and Trondheim keep the story moving. (I think this one is Sfar writing and Trondheim drawing, but it’s hard to tell with them, since they both do both.)
[[[Kaput & Zösky]]]
By Lewis Trondheim with Eric Cartier
First Second, 2008, $13.95
The titular characters are these two little dudes who fly around in their equally-tiny spaceship, looking for planets to conquer with their ever-ready blasters. They’re rude, violent, and capricious…but, luckily for the rest of the universe, they’re not actually all that good at what they do.
Kaput & Zösky’s adventures are generally four or five pages long (with some shorter pieces) and run a bit to formula: they arrive on a planet, try to conquer it, and something stops them. But their gleefully obnoxious attitude makes up for any repetition.
Also in this volume are a number of single-page pantomime strips about “the Cosmonaut,” who also shoots whatever he sees. (And may be a thinly veiled Ugly American figure, at least part of the time.)
This is pretty much a one-joke collection, but it’s not too long, and the joke is a pretty good one. I expect kids will like it – I’m going to try it on my own two sons next.
Classics Illustrated Graphic Novel #1: Great Expectations
By Charles Dickens, adapted by Rick Geary
Papercutz, 2008, $9.95
This is a reprint from the 1990 First Comics run of the Classics Illustrated series, and it also starts the new Papercutz sequence off well. I’m not going to describe the story – Geary truncates and adapts Dickens’s classic novel to comics, so the story is pretty well-known by this point.
There’s a lot of dialogue, and many, many “talking heads” panels, but Geary’s lively art and caricaturist’s eye makes it flow well. Really, whatever Geary does he does well, and [[[Great Expectations]]] is no exception. This is probably going to mostly be a crutch for teenagers who can’t manage to find time to read the whole novel, but it’s a well-drawn, carefully-told crutch, so that’s much better than it could be.
Andrew Wheeler has been a publishing professional for nearly twenty years, with a long stint as a Senior Editor at the Science Fiction Book Club and a current position at John Wiley & Sons. He’s been reading comics for longer than he cares to mention, and maintains a personal, mostly book-oriented blog at antickmusings.blogspot.com.
Publishers who would like their books to be reviewed at ComicMix should contact ComicMix through the usual channels or email Andrew Wheeler directly at acwheele (at) optonline (dot) net.