TONY'S ONLINE TIPS for Thursday, February 19, 2009
Just the thought of Garfield Minus Garfield [Ballantine Books; $12] makes me smile. This collection of doctored Garfield strips got its start when lifelong Garfield fan Dan Walsh, feeling like he was turning into Jon Arbuckle, the owner of the lasagna-loving cat, started removing Garfield from the strips and sharing the results with his friends and then on a website. These moments of so human ennui struck a chord with online readers, including the real owner of Garfield, cartoonist Jim Davis. If you thought this story was about to turn ugly, you're wrong.
Davis loved Walsh's remakes so much that he arranged for them to be collected in this book. There's a foreword by Walsh, a bunch of Walsh's "Garfield Minus Garfield" strips, a word from Davis, a selection of "Garfield Minus Garfield" strips by Davis himself, and some very funny extras. The redone strips are presented in color with the black-and-white originals below them.
Garfield Minus Garfield is 128 happy pages of reflected smiles that also serve as wry commentary on life. Buy a copy for yourself and several more for year-round gifts for friends. On both counts, this book gets the full five out of five Tonys.
I'm crazy mad in love with the premise of Gearz #1 [Bluewater Comics; $3.99]. A trio of robot Secret Service agents, built to protect the most unpopular president in our history - a fictional one - are mistakenly delivered to the home of Karen Chugg, the most unpopular girl at Westville High School. Thanks to a goof in their programming - they were a rush job - the robots proceed to protect Karen from all the perils of high school. It's a brilliant concept that's diminished by poor execution.
Writer Dan Rafter gets points for making Karen very likeable. She's an underdog with everything - allergies, awkwardness, etc. - working against her. Her eager attempts to make friends are often cruelly rebuffed. You gotta feel for this kid.
Rafter does a decent job with Karen's voice, but the pacing of this debut is choppy. A slightly more linear approach would have served the story better.
It's in the visuals where Gearz suffers the most. The character designs are unattractive and not terribly original. The drawing is weak and the panel and panel-to-panel storytelling is even weaker. The killing blow is the coloring, among the worst I have seen in recent years. Looking at it hurt my eyes.
Gearz deserves better than its presentation here. My advice would be for Bluewater to scrap any future issues with this artist, recycle unsold copies of this first issue, and start over with better visuals. Rafter has something here, but it needs more work to live up to its potential.
Gearz #1 earns a disappointing two Tonys.
Many years ago, reviewing the first collection of Jeff Krell's Jayson, I opined that, "With the right cast and in a better world, Jayson would be a beloved TV sitcom." That hasn't happened yet. However, in Jayson Goes to Hollywood [Ignite! Entertainment; $12.95], the title hero and his pal Arena Stage take on Tinseltown in their own wacky fashion.
Jayson and Arena hit the job market, start their own marketing agency, get hired by a friend who makes gay porn, and head to Los Angeles to try to prevent Arena's sister from having a child via their mutual ex-boyfriend, a still-in-the-closet actor. While the book does carry a "mature readers" label, most of the stories would not even earn an "R" rating.
Outside of one misfire that tosses the characters into goofy science fiction territory, Krell's character-driven tales are fun and witty. He's got a great ear for dialogue; you can hear Jayson and the other players speak their lines as you read them.
Krell's art is akin to that in Archie and other classic humor comics of the 1960s. His style is crisp and energetic, easy on the eyes and always in service of his stories.
Jayson Goes to Hollywood confirms my earlier praise for Krell and his characters. It's that better world that's taking too long to get here.
One more for the road. Written and pencilled by Alan Davis with inks by Mark Farmer, Thor: Truth of History #1 [Marvel; $4.99] is an old-school one-shot starring the God of Thunder and his usual Asgardian crew. It's a hoot-and-a-half.
Learning that Queen Nedra of Jotunheim is messing with Midgard - aka Earth - and violating an agreement with the deities of other lands, Thor and company invade her Asgardian castle to put a quick end to her excursions. That's when Volstagg stumbles through her portal and ends up in ancient Egypt.
Davis delivers a rollicking good-natured adventure. There's plenty of action and menace, but there are also humorous moments as the Asgardians contend with the language barrier. The art is just as dynamic and stunning as you'd expect from Davis and Farmer, with colorist Rob Schwager contributing mightily as well. We need more done-in-one super-hero stories of this quality.
Thor: Truth of History earns the full five Tonys.
Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.
ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.
TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?
THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.
FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?
FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.
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