Headlines   2003Review Index   April 11, 2003
Suspended Animation

Michael Vance - Mark Allen
Michael Vance Books

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Review Index 2003 - 2002 - 2001 - 2000 - 1999 - 1998

     Katie and Alison, two female private eyes, are investigating an infidelity case. When it seems to be cracked, however, the jilted wife asks another service; retrieve a video of a delicate nature from her husband's place of work. What's really on the tape, however, is unexpected.  From there, things get interesting, in this hip, fun comic, entitled AKA.

     Writer Dara Naraghi creates two very engaging main characters in this series; imagine Laverne and Shirley as gumshoes, and you're getting close. She also keeps a picky reader's attention, using humor, action, and a bit of suspense for good measure. Great dialogue and pacing bring it all together. Wonderful stuff.

     While artist Steve Black's interior black and white work takes a little getting used to, due to very thick lines and rigidity of characters, it is not an unattractive style. His painted covers, however, are extremely eye-catching; their marriage with the unique format of the book nearly make it worth the price of admission on their own. Of course, the afore-mentioned story cements the deal. If only there were more pages...

     One of the refreshing things about the book is that Naraghi and Black capture the "seedy" side of private investigation, almost entirely without the gratuitous sexual content, nudity or language; quite the feat, when so many independent publishers out there seem to think that's where real adult entertainment resides.

     AKA, published by Ferret Press, 16 pages (no ads), two dollars. AKA is suggested for adult readers who enjoy detective stories and humor. Visit www.ferretpress.com for ordering information.

     Review by Mark Allen

Bounty Hunter and Serenade

      Bounty Hunter, by writer Rod Jenkins and artist Barbara Jenkins, is a fairly straightforward super hero tale. A young man is kidnapped off the streets by an evil genius (who also happens to be a white supremacist) and subjected to experiments that make him super-strong. After escaping and donning a military battle suit from a friend-turned-scientist, he exacts revenge on the villain, who has now abducted his mother. Bounty Hunter is a simple story, that, due to problems of editing (words missing from sentences, misspellings) and somewhat silly dialogue, is hard to read. Mind you, I'm not saying Rod Jenkins is a bad writer, just that more attention needs to be paid to the editing process.

      The art on the book is, unfortunately, not much better. This is a surprise, as Barbara Jenkins' art on the Serenade title seems to be a few notches above this work. Most noticeable is that inconsistent size of characters. In one panel, the hero may loom large over another character, while later being closer to the same size. Not only is the art of Serenade superior to that of Bounty Hunter, the writing is also more enjoyable.

      The story of a young girl of African-American and Korean race, it deals primarily with the prejudice she faces in Korea due to her mixed heritage. This is unique subject matter that, to my knowledge, has never been utilized in comics before. Kudos to Mrs. Jenkins, who also writes the title. (Though Serenade is marketed for "adults only," issue zero, alone, contains nudity, and is not personally recommended by this reviewer. This review concerns the first and second issues.)

      Despite some problems, this is a company that desires to produce comics that are different from the norm; different size, different coloring process, etc. That, along with their spirit, is to be encouraged. Visit their web site at http://pages.prodigy.net/kiss-me-comix/.

      Bounty Hunter and Serenade, published by Kiss Me Comics, 20 pages, $3.00. From Kiss Me Comics.

      Review by Mark Allen


      Question: what is an enigma wrapped in newspaper?  Here are clues: diners, a mu mu, tiny or giant statues, pop culture, and often unintelligible dialogue. The answer: Zippy the comic strip by Bill Griffith.

      Cartoonist Griffith emerged from the underground comic books of the '60s and '70s characterized by promiscuous sex, drugs, and disrespect for the law and authority. He emerged only far enough to gain syndication in main-stream newspapers; his influences are still evident in his comic strip Zippy.

      Zippy is Griffith's observations on societal norms, "pop" culture, politics, and religion as filtered through the eyes of a literally pinheaded, wistfully gentle, usually unemployed man who wanders aimlessly through life.

      Yes, Virginia, there are still Hippies; they just have different names.

      Are they funny observations? No, they are often obscure non-sense. You don't believe? Zippy and friend stand in falling snow.

      "Are you prepared for the chill of winter, Zippy?" asks friend.

      "Ripstop nylon microfleece!" answers Zippy. "Ripstop nylon microfleece! Ripstop nylon microfleece! Ripstop nylon microfleece!"  

      "Words won't keep you warm in January, Zip..." adds the friend.

      "They will if they're repeated often enough!"

      "Bundle up Zippy, the wind is whipping off th' lake."

      "Walter Winchell factor!" concludes the pinhead.

      But are they interesting? Yes, sometimes.

      Is the art funny and engaging? Yes, often like disjointed dreams that leave once scratching a head and looking for an interpretation. Having written that, this reviewer does enjoy Zippy's trips to odd-shaped diners with giant chickens and pigs on their roofs and his insights about comic books and strips that require historical knowledge probably lacking in most casual readers.

      So, is this meaningless drivel or the profound observations of a social and political genius? meaningless drivel meaningless drivel meaningless drivel Yes.

      Zippy Annual 2002/$19.95 & 127 pgs. from Fantagraphics/available in comics and books stores and at www.fantagraphics.com.

      Review by Michael Vance

Complex City

     A couple of years ago, I reviewed J.E. Smith's Complex City, the story of a canine cop in a futuristic city. Now, the trade collection of the first couple of storylines is available. If you're looking for something imaginative, entertaining, and just plain different, this book is for you. Ask your local comic store for more information. To read my original review, go to the 2001 section at www.starland.com/sus/ (unless, of course, you're already there).

     Review by Michael Vance


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