From Friendly Ghosts To Gamma Rays, No.101: A.K.A. FFGTGR Point One
So here we go, the hundred and first time we are back for all-age comics coolness with From Friendly Ghosts To Gamma Rays. In the tradition of when things start getting into the 100s, I deem this 101st column as our reboot column! True, really anyone could jump onto reading this column any given week and know what’s up, but it wouldn’t feel in the right vein of comic book culture, and so with that in mind, I want to welcome you reader to the weekly all-ages review column here at ComicAttack.Net: From Friendly Ghosts To Gamma Rays (and if you click on that link, it’ll take you to the hundred columns that came before this).
Three things to say this week. First is the least important, which is this past weekend there was a yearly art festival in my region, and at it I ate alligator with my friend Nick. No joke, they pull alligator meat like they do pork and make sandwiches galore out of it. Your favorite reviewer (me) lived. Second is, last week in our milestone 100th column we had guest writers from the comics industry join us and write about some of their favorite all-ages titles. This was pretty fun to hear and find out, so if you missed that, click the link here. Lastly, Shonen Jump Alpha added the new manga Barrage to its line up last week, and the title is pretty awesome sci-fi fun, so click on the link here to see what we said about it. And with that, let’s get down to this week’s reviews, all of them really great stuff!
Gilbert Hernandez, known for work such as being co-creator of Love and Rockets, is not the first name that’d come to mind when you think all-ages comics. However, from 1999-2000 he edited the children-aimed anthology Measles, and contributed to it a rare adventure into all-ages territory with The Adventures of Venus. Fantagraphics has collected all the Venus stories, along with a brand new one, into a super well priced and polished presentation hardcover collection.
The Adventures of Venus follows the main character, Venus, through 104 pages of comic goodness. Cute, blonde, comic book collecting (specifically the old romance comics), and full of imagination, Venus and each of her stories are pretty interesting for readers young and old. The many adventures here include her friendship/rivalry with the pretty Glinda Gonzalez, a mysterious creature that is possibly just in her head called the Blooter Baby, space adventures (that are actually Earth bound), soccer matches, her crush on a handsome boy named Miguel Mendoza, teaching her sister how to talk through comics, and a very wacky adventure through her imagination.
It’s not quite Betty and Veronica, but it’s not quite Calvin and Hobbes; it’s that special place in between that catches that transition from childhood into adolescence, which doesn’t get captured on the comic book page much, and is a rare treat that Hernandez delivers here to such perfection. This collection is pretty great. Hernandez on these stories has the unique ability to really tap into that magical place of imagination. Situations that are so normal suddenly go into that special wild place, like the Blooter Baby story, that comes from the memories of childhood somewhere. Each of the stories individually are hysterical with Venus’s unique commentary on things as she sees it, as well as having that connecting point we can all grab onto from our past, like that first crush you had, or if a theme park was more than just a theme park. The art by Hernandez is some well designed, indie-vibe, black and white storytelling that helps push the stories along with smooth layouts and great visual effects going on in each panel.
As mentioned, Fantagraphics wraps these stories all together in a nice hard cover edition for only $9.99! The Adventures of Venus is just so unique in the way it rolls out, it’s worth picking up for the read at that great price. Out this month of June.
Out from Papercutz is the second volume of Ernest & Rebecca, a European Calvin and Hobbes-esque comic that follows the adventures of young Rebecca, who is infected with a supermicrobe she has named Ernest. The microbe appears to her in her imagination and helps her deal with problems in her everyday life, namely the situation at hand of her parents getting a divorce and her Mom re-dating.
Where as the first volume concentrated on the separation of her parents, this newest volume shows little Rebecca’s world moving fast as her hopes that Ernest and she can figure a way to get her parents back together are dashed, as her Mom wants Rebecca and her older sister Coralie to meet her new boyfriend, Sam, or “Sam the Repulsive” as Ernest and Rebecca have dubbed him. On top of that, Coralie just wants to start living a normal teenage life, and begins dating one of the school hotties, named Freddy. All of this unravels and continues as Rebecca keeps trying to train herself with Ernest to become the ultimate supermicrobe and take Sam down, but when Sam finally does show up in person….
Ernest & Rebecca I give a lot of credit t0 in a culture where about half of all marriages don’t work out on their first time. The title deals with the topic with utmost care and humor. Other comics may throw divorce in as a subplot or a little haphazardly, but it’s so integrated into the tale here, perhaps analytically we could even say it’s the reason Rebecca imagines Ernest in the first place, as a coping device to the stress, that we actually get a solid take on the topic, at times heart-warming and at times sad, which all-ages going through that situation can look at as a mirror into the world. From writing to art, we get a beautifully visual package that is fascinating from the first time to the re-read.
Ernest & Rebecca volume 2 is out now from Papercutz.
So after I raved about issue one (check the review by clicking here), I very much looked forward to a second round of reading with issue #2 of Garfield, which came out last week. The long short on it is that this issue, like the first, did not disappoint with a solid delivery of the fat cat’s comic book adventures.
Issue #2 contains two new Garfield adventures for our enjoyment. The first is “Sticking Point,” where after being bugged non-stop by Odie to play fetch, Garfield throws the stick outside and off into the distance. At the same time, a UFO crash lands and its power rod breaks off, which is picked up by Odie, mistaking it for his stick. He brings it back to Garfield who very soon finds out that the power rod has the ability to grant whatever the holder wants, much to Garfield’s pleasure, until the rod goes out of control as the alien attempts to destroy it. In the second tale, “Down For The Count,” Jon one day is attempting to count jelly beans in a jar at a local candy store, for if he can guess the right amount, he could win $500 bucks! This is easier said than done, as Jon is constantly disrupted by a series of folks chasing, you guessed it, Garfield himself, to some very humorous results.
As with the first issue, the solid creative team behind the Garfield comic book has transitioned everything you love about the character from the newspaper strip and onto the comic book page for fun full-length adventures. Evanier has written the characters to perfection with great comedic beats, really taking advantage of Garfield breaking down the 4th wall and talking right to the reader, one of the things we love about Garfield. The art by both Gary Barker and Dan Davis is great, looking like the Garfield-universe and fitting right at home on the comic page, both layout wise and of course in tones of visual humor and enjoyment (I mean, you wouldn’t buy a Garfield book not to laugh, right?).
Garfield continues to impress from Kaboom!, putting smiles all around. I’ve remarked to a few people that I think the reason why this comic works so well is not only that it’s a great version of the original material, but as an adult I love this book, and I also know if I time-traveled and showed this to the kid-version of myself, he’d love this book, too. All-ages winner, pick it up.
That’s it for this week, see you next week!