Headlines   2002 Review Index   October 23, 2002

Suspended Animation

Michael Vance - Mark Allen
Michael Vance Books

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Review Index 2002 - 2001 - 2000 - 1999 - 1998
     Trenches, published by Top Shelf Productions, Inc., 176 pages, $15.95.

     David and Lloyd Allenby didn't always get along as children, nor do they as adults. David, the rowdy, worldly older of the two, is sometimes quite cruel to his younger, more reserved sibling. As both are called up to serve their country during W.W. I, however, they snipe, argue, fight and insult one another…while gaining a newfound respect for each other. It's all in Scott Mills' sometimes tense, sometimes tender, always entertaining period story, Trenches.

     As comic entertainment goes, Mills hits a homerun with this book. His characters, though sometimes annoying or infuriating, possess a harm that will endear readers. Though it's easy to take up the cause of the more timid Lloyd, as he suffers embarrassment at the hands of his own kin, one may even find that the bully, David, is to be almost admired at times. This work speaks well of the good to be found in all people, even if it's not on the surface. It's always a plus if a writer can make people care about his characters; this one does so.

     Mills' has a minimalist style of art in this book. Some panels appear almost unfinished, while the line work in others possesses a haphazard, even slightly obscuring quality. This is not to say it's not good work; it is, as it very much fits the story. It tends to capture the chaos of some of the more intense and violent war scenes, making them all the more believable, despite the "cartoony" appearance.

     Mills also proves that an artist doesn't have to produce highly detailed work in order for the characters to be expressive.

     Trenches deftly displays anger, sadness, apprehension, heroism, and more through its characters.
Trenches is highly recommended for adults. It's not a kid's book, due to language and adult situations. Look for it at comic shops, comic conventions, online catalogs, auctions, or at www.topshelfcomix.com. For your nearest comic shop, call 1-888-comicbook.

      Review by Mark Allen

Dungeon #1
     Bedecked with skulls and wielding a gigantic pike, Marvin is a principal guardian of a huge castle of monsters. Ababakar Octoflea is the fearless barbarian sent on a mission to thwart disaster.

     Marvin is an alligator. Ababakar is a duck Dungeon #1 from NBM Publishing ($2.95, 23 pages) is a first class piece of comic book fantasy.

     Dungeon is a great deal like Groo The Wanderer, except that it isn't. Both are drawn in a style close to a doodle, but Dungeon is a bit more detailed and imaginative in the depiction of its monsters. Both parody the barbarian sub genre made famous by Robert E. Howard's Conan, the Barbarian. But Dungeon is also a parody of the entire genre of heroic fantasy. Both titles are also well written, but Dungeon lacks the formulistic plots that weaken Groo.

     The strength of both series lies in characterization.
The characters as written by Lewis Trondeim and drawn by Joann Star in this title are fully fleshed out and intriguing, often playing visual stereotypes against character traits that are very human.

     A visual eyesore in the tradition of fantasy monsters, Marvin the alligator is levelheaded, slow to anger, dependable, and heroic. The gigantic quest initiated by Marvin's master will surely meet with success only by the hand, er, claw of Marvin.

     The hero apparent of Dungeon, however, is a lying, sniveling coward of a duck thrown into this adventure by his own deceit and ineptness.

     And, ah, what a thrilling adventure with swords, sorcerers, hooded threats and peril behind every stone. Bizarre creatures and talking belt-buckles. Is it any wonder that Dungeon is highly recommended for readers who love fantasy?

     Review by Michael Vance

The Stuff of Dreams
MINIVIEW: The Stuff of Dreams [Fantagraphics] Waldo is back! This nihilistic, hedonistic homage to comics' cats Krazy and Felix turns a trip to a flea market into a wild dream of island shipwreck peppered with profanity, nudity and blasphemy. Well drawn.

     Review by Michael Vance


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