Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Four for free

More goodness from the Prince William County Public Library System.

Plastic Man: On the Lam - Kyle Baker - I have never been a fan of Plastic Man. I have never hated him or anything, but I have mostly chosen to avoid him in life. I wanted to read this one because it, and Kyle Baker who wrote and illustrated it, had received some pretty favorable chatter about it. When I first started reading it I kind of wanted to just stop and declare it a wash. I didn't though, which is good. Once I started to get more invested in it I was less bothered by the things that had been bothering me. It turns out to be a fun and silly romp that is well written, and very well illustrated for the sort of look it was going for. Plastic man can be a very wacky guy. He's kind of like Jim Carrey and Robin Williams and god forbid Carrot Top all melted together and formed into a walking hyper-spastic prop-comic. The story has a murder in it, but is nothing heavier than a goof filled romp nicely worked into a funny plot. I liked it once I got past my issue with it... I am pretty sure that my main issue, even more than getting used to the style of the art, was the lettering and word ballons used. They nearly made the thing inaccessible to me. I'm not sure what I would rather see, but for me they were a barrier. I think I have only made that sort of statement in regard to near illegible writing in a Jim Mahfood comic once.

Amulet: Book One, The Stonekeeper- Kazu Kibuishi: The loss of a father, moving to the middle of nowhere, a mysterious disappearing great-grandfather, a magical amulet, a hidden world, lovable robots and evil creatures with nefarious motives. While perhaps none of those things are new, there is no sense of been there, done that in this beautifully illustrated first book in a series. Regardless of how predictable a lot of the elements seem, I was pleasantly surprised a good number of times, never more than in the end when the house they are in stands up to reaveal itself as a giant brick and mortar transformer that sets out to take our heroes to the nearest city.  This book was sweet and sad and funny. It has action and fantasy in it. The primary hero is a young girl who is tasked with saving a parallel world. She is aided in this endeavor by the robotic creations of her Great-Grandfather, and her video game loving little brother. This is a perfect comic for kids, but in my opinion is a lovely all-ages affair.

Shazam: The Monster Society of Evil - Written and drawn by Jeff Smith - I loved this. I think may be the art is a tiny bit inconsistent, but it is still pretty amazing throughout. This book covers Billy Batson becoming Captain Marvel, and his first encounters with Mr. Mind and Dr. Sivana, as well as meeting his sister Mary and her becoming Mary Marvel. One place that the art is completely consistent is in the beautifully drawn animals and Animal-Men. Talky Tawny is stunning in both tiger form and house cat form.  The story runs pretty much as you would want it too. Billy, even for living on his own in a slum, is a little kid, and acts like one. There is no great heaviness to this, Captain Marvel is fun, just like he should be. This isn't exactly the all out joy-fest that Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam is, but it's a good read for all ages and features a kick butt talking tiger.

Otto's Orange Day - Frank Cammuso & Jay Lynch: This is a TOON BOOK from the Little Lit Library, which is a Division of RAW Junior. That seems like a lot of sub-divisions. I plan to do more reading on the line soon.  The last bit of the 'About Toon' that I linked to has this to say:

TOON Books let readers everywhere know: “COMICS—They’re not just for grown-ups anymore! They’re not even just for Young Adults. Comics are once again for KIDS, even for the youngest… and they’re better than ever!”

I Think that's a pretty important goal, and judging from this title, I would say they are serious about it. Otto's Orange Day is a comic book written for kids. It reads like a kids book, but not one that has just been slapped into the comics medium, one that was written as a comic. I think the medium is used well, and it presents the material in a way, with movement and flow, that making this a straight illustrated book would not convey. Yes, kids comics have been written before, but this line has an actual mission in mind. It takes it's goal seriously and does a good job of it.  The story has Otto the cat(whose favorite color is orange) receiving a gift in the mail from his aunt Sally Lee. It is a lamp with a genie in it. The genie grants him one wish, and Otto uses it to make EVERYTHING in the world orange. The genie only grants one wish per owner, and it doesn't take Otto long to realize that, as great as it is, not all things were meant to be orange. I hope these sort of titles make it in to school libraries, and that teachers use the online resources available to them from the publisher for full effect.

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