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As Shorty As They Wanna Be

One of the nice things about not having an official column anymore is that I can offer these bits of commentary in any form or any length I want. This time, I thought Iíd run through a few books Iíve read in the past month that I donít feel like reviewing in depth. Doesnít make them bad; itís just the way I want to do it.

NYC MECH by Miles Gunter, Ivan Brandon and Andy McDonald could really be something more than it is. Basically, itís DRUGSTORE COWBOY if the gang of hapless junkies were much less sympathetic, and robots. These robots dress like people, have facial hair, and fall into recognizable personality types. You canít have a criminal gang without a hothead or a nihilist, I guess. Itís a fun book to look at, as McDonald gets a gritty urban crime book feel, just populated with people made of metal. After a couple issues, though, I still donít care about the characters, and the next issue blurb indicates theyíre all dead, anyway. Even worse, it seems that the premise really hasnít been explored to a tenth of its potential. I mean, if these robots look like people, think like people, have sex like people, commit crimes like people, and even take drugs just like people do, why is it important that they be robots?

Alice in New York by Henry Chamberlain is a curious but compelling new minicomic, apparently a chunk of an in-the-works graphic novel depicting Chamberlainís first immersion in NYC. Chamberlain the character falls into some good fortune far too easily given his hesitant, uncharismatic natureóhe meets a nice, rich woman who then sets him up on a blind date with a supermodel that nightóbut Chamberlain the creator has the confidence to pull it off that his character lacks. Heís got a loose, energetic line and some bold layouts that pulled me in quickly. Being an excerpt of a larger work, it doesnít end satisfactorily, but itís good enough to make me want to read the rest.

The Ballad of Sleeping Beauty by Gabriel Benson and Mike Hawthorne is the latest attempt by Beckett Comics to retell classic old tales in new settings. The inspiration for this one is obvious by the title, but done very well by Benson as a kind of magical Western. Too early to tell how it will end up, but a strong start, with good, cinematic pacing. Iíd like to say that Ruule Vol. 2: Kiss & Tell started off just as strongly, but while I was entertained reading it, I canít remember what happened. I know it was a noir setting, but whether the story was Samson and Delilah or something else, I couldnít tell you. Not a bad entry into Beckett, though, as itís only 99 cents.

Oh, a few months back I read Rich Tommasoís 8 Ĺ Ghosts, which sounds great on paper: William Castleís 13 GHOSTS with Federico Felliniís 8 Ĺ. But having just read a lousy but prominent critic trying to convince his readers that this one was unjustly overlooked, I wanted to stress that it really isnít very good. Itís not bad, as Tommaso draws in a decent Dan Clowes imitation, but itís too cute by half and really never comes together as a work of either purpose or yuksóitís just a funny premise for movie geeks, combining low culture and high, blending genres. Hey, SCTV is finally on dvdóthey did a lot of that, and it was funny.

Adam Beechen and Manny Bello are unfamiliar names to me, but Iíll keep my eye out for their work from now on, after the excellent job they did on HENCH, an AiT graphic novel. This is the story of how an ex-jock falls into a particular kind of life of crime, that of a costumed supervillainís henchman. Beechen obviously loves superheroes but wants to do something a little more grown-up, yet not so grim and deconstructed that it becomes unbearable. Thereís some good, dry humor here instead, but it does have its share of pathos, and the lead character is as well-written as one would find in Kurt Busiekís ASTRO CITY. He really nails down the guyís motivation for doing this, and makes clear how one bad choice can almost ruin oneís life forever. AiT are known for quite a bit of tongue-in-cheek fare, but this graphic novel is deeper and more affecting than the norm.

-- Chris Allen


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