Headlines   2002 Review Index   December 12, 2002

Suspended Animation

Michael Vance - Mark Allen
Michael Vance Books

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            Decoy #s 1-4/29 pgs. and three covers for $2.95 each from Penny-Farthing Press/Buddy Scalers, writer; Courtney Huddleston, artist/sold at comics shops and at www.pfpress.com.

            "Alternative" companies have published a large number of above- average and even excellent comic books in the last year. Alternative simply means readers wont find these titles sold on newsstands. Decoy has just increased that number.

            This beautifully drawn and well written cosmic story set on Earth is about a cuddly little alien that is a raging monster, raging monsters that are cuddly little aliens, and a nave, confused cop named Luck. On top of that, this comic looks and reads like a quality animation series for young readers (like the brilliant comic Bone) and will, therefore, be ignored by older readers who like superheroes who clench their fists and teeth, and angst a lot. (Yes, yes, yes, I know angst isn't a verb).

            I also know that if older readers ignore this review and Decoy, it will be their loss. Tessa is Luck's partner and girl-friend (although neither of them know it), and becomes a pawn in a web of deception laid by a professor who looks like a mad scientist, but isn't.  "He" wants Decoy, the cuddly little alien, bad enough to murder anyone who gets in his way.

            If you detect a pattern of role reversals that play against stereotypes in Decoy, then I have done my job as a reviewer. It is almost time for me to ride off into the sunset. That, combined with a series of minor, unanswered questions that add an element of curiosity and intrigue to this series, leaves me with one unalterable conclusion:

            Decoy is highly recommended for young readers (parental discretion is required; some monsters are visually quite disturbing) and for readers who are young at heart.

     Review by Michael Vance

Ripley's Believe It or Not!

      Ripley's Believe It or Not! #1, published by Dark Horse Comics, 24 pages, $2.99.

I don't normally review a comic after seeing only one issue, but in the case of Ripley's Believe It or Not, by Dark Horse Comics, I'm willing to make an exception.  Why?  Primarily due to the fact that the format of the book allows it; self-contained stories, with no cliffhanger endings or ongoing character development.  Additionally, because I believe Dark Horse has produced a great comic.

      What's good about this book?  First of all, the stories are of actual events.

      Throughout the '40's and '50's, there were many a comic series dedicated to numerous amazing (and some not so) events of history.  Today, however, such works seem to be extinct, at least in the mainstream.

      Now, don't get me wrong, I like the escapism of fiction as much as anyone, but I also believe that the medium of comic books is a great way to relay historical information. There is, indeed, something to the saying that truth is sometimes stranger than fiction. It's certainly the case in this comic, and, thanks to script man Haden Blackman, the content between the covers also tends to be more entertaining than many offerings of today's comic industry.

      The art also helps make Ripley's attractive.  Cary Nord, who has done so much work in the superhero genre, does a masterful job of dramatically illustrating the stories, in glorious black and white, no less. 

      "Glorious?"  You betcha!  Not many artists can pull off the "colorless" work, but Nord not only does it with fine depth, his panels are never obscured; the reader doesn't have to "study" the picture to figure out what's happening.

      Tales of "history's mysteries" (Amelia Earhart, D.B. Cooper, the crew of the Mary Celeste) have never looked so good.

      Ripley's Believe It or Not is suggested for all ages.  (Insert a "breathy" Jack Palance voice; "Believe it,or Not.")

      Look for this comic at comic shops, trade shows and online catalogs.       

      Review by Mark Allen


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