Headlines   2003Review Index   May 23, 2003
Suspended Animation

Michael Vance - Mark Allen
Michael Vance Books

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Field Trip #1

      One man's junk is another man's treasure, but the comic strip Calvin & Hobbes is no man's junk, not even when purchased by a sister-in-law at a garage sale. Calvin & Hobbes shared the adventures of a very young boy, Calvin, and his stuffed tiger, Hobbes, exploits that were limited only by Calvin's imagination and the aggravating reality of his parents.

      Watterson's simple, direct art was perfectly suited for Calvin's fantasy world of spaceships, aliens, super-heroes and dinosaurs. In addition, Watterson's believable dialog, human emotion, and situation added a wistful familiarity to his characters that is seldom matched in the genre. But beyond his excellent, minimalistic art and the accurate portrait of a little boy, his comic strip was characterized by one undeniable and heartwarming fact.

      Watterson loved Calvin. 

      Besides adventure, what do a boy and his toy bear (from the comic book Herobear) and a man and his alien (from the comic book Decoy) share in common? They share the premise of a child with an imaginary friend, and the "cross-over" title Field Trip.

      For the uninitiated, the term "cross-over" means characters from two or more different titles are featured in one story.

      They also share excellence through two divergent art styles, engrossing visual storytelling, believable dialogue and characterization, and an interesting plot.

      Herobear seems influenced by the strip Calvin and Hobbes, and Decoy was clearly created for younger audiences. Field... features un-inked art, a rarity in comics because of the earlier limitations of printing processes. Both titles bring their strengths to a story easily enjoyed by adults as well as kids.

      It's A Magical World/original sticker price $11.21 & 165 pgs. from Andrews & McMeel/by Bill Watterson.

      Field Trip #1 (of 2)/$2.95 & 32 pgs. from Penny-Farthing and Astonish Comics/story: Courtney Huddleston; words: Mike Kunkel; art: Huddleston and Kunkel/sold at comics shops and at www.pfpress.com.

      Review by Michael Vance

The Travelers

      His hand outstretched, imagine somber Hamlet saying, "To be or not to be, that is the question." Next to a broken mirror on a wall behind the Prince is a sign reading: In Case of Broken Glass, Break Glass.

      That's not funny or dramatic.

      Knowing that, Shakespeare didn't write it and is therefore remembered as a great bard. But, ah sweet Uric, Tony DiGerolamo of The Travelers' did write that and more. That sign actually hangs behind a terrible sword fight in his 18th issue, and weakens both its suspense and tragedy.

      Therein lays a problem for a comic book series that can't decide if it is fish or fowl, friend. These specific travelers are an ensemble cast of male and female characters who star in two different settings, times, and genres in the issues reviewed.  In the 18th issue, they lay siege to a medieval castle while in the 19th issue they act in a parody of James Bond movies.

      Believable dialog, plotting that is tight, characterization that is intriguing, and a light-hearted tone to The Travelers' does much to recommend the series. But is that enough?   

      Minimalist art is entertaining but irregular because of multiple inkers, and that makes suspension of disbelief difficult. In addition, the otherwise acceptable lettering varies in size, particularly in the 18th issue.  Size in lettering denotes the intensity and volume of the spoken word, and is jarring in this context.

      Its potential not fully realized, this series' weakness is inconsistency. Its strength is a love of media, subject and characters that makes it fun but not exceptional. Recommended for those who are patient enough to wait for the full blossoming of the talent that obviously exists in its creators.

      The Travelers #s 18 & 19/29 pgs. and $2.99 each from Kenzer and Company/story: Tony DiGerolamo; art: various/sold at comics shops and www.wingnutgames.com.

      Review by Michael Vance


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