Headlines   2003 Review Index   December 26, 2003
Suspended Animation &

Michael Vance

Mark Allen

Michael Vance Books

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Negative Exposure

     Imagine you're a reporter. Now, imagine you wake up in your Beijing hotel room, to find the Tiananmen Square massacre taking place just 150 meters from your window. You leave your hotel room, and begin trying to cover the hellish event. Then, out of nowhere, a woman you've never met arrives to whisk you away...to safety? No, rather, to a location where 200 students from the failed uprising are about to be executed.

     You, and you alone, are expected to take photos of the event, get them out of China, and have them published, bringing an end to the rule of Deng Xiaoping.

     Got all that? Good. You've just peeked into the life of investigative reporter Oliver Varese, the main character in the trade paperback collection Negative Exposure, from Humanoids Publishing.

     Written by Thierry Smolderen and Georges Pop, this engaging tale combines breakneck-paced action, international intrigue and great humor, to produce a comic-reading experience all it's own.

     Varese is finely-portrayed as the in-over-his-head reporter who rises to the occasion, so thanks is due to said writers for superb characterization, as well.

     Artist Enrico Marini employs a manga-slash-European art style that combines great character expression with fine detail. It goes a long way toward the success of the story. Readers should be forewarned, however, that this is NOT a children's book, due to the all-too-European tendency to insert nudity and sexual content needlessly.

     "Oh, grow up, you prude! Comics surely have," is very often the response to such statements. Though, I must admit, I've never understood why including naked characters, sex and schoolyard language in a story is considered "mature." I'm much more impressed by a creator's ability to weave an entertaining tale by means of characterization, implication and wonderful artwork; but that's just me.

     Negative Exposure does have two of the three, however, which is why it's still recommended for adults.

     Negative Exposure, published by Humanoids Publishing, 144 pages, $17.95. Find it at your local comic shop, or at www.humanoids-publishing.com

     Review by Mark Allen

Lil Red Stitch

     Lil Red Stitch is a children's book.

     Don't stop reading, buckwheat. A child's book can be a delight for adults if well written and drawn.

     Lil Red Stitch is a children's comic book without the nice, hard covers one finds in libraries. It is the story of a pre-teenaged girl in Randall County, Texas, who discovers a marvelous gift she has inherited from a relative. She can stitch life into dolls. That sounds like a premise that will fascinate young readers. The original Lil Red Stitch was kidnapped by and grew up with Indians.

     That's another exciting idea for young readers. Are you beginning to warm to this new title, buckwheat?

     To add to the excitement, the exotic, near-desert setting, and concise and clear story can do nothing but captivate its intended bubble-gum chewing audience. Add to this a wonderful, minimal-istic art greatly enchanced by color, and Lil Red Stitch becomes a sure winner for kiddos.

     But the mission of Suspended Animation is to find titles that adults will enjoy. What about big kids?!

     With regret, this title is not written on two levels as are classics like Pogo, Bone and Alice In Wonderland. Adults will probably not be interested in this title.

     But, isn't there a second feature in this flip-book?

     The Sparkle King is a glimpse on the flip-side of Lil Red Stitch of an upcoming title. Smacking of fantasy and beautifully drawn and colored, it may also be a must read for children. But there isn't enough revealed here to know if adults will enjoy it.

     This new title is nevertheless highly recommended for young readers or children who love to listen and can't read.

     Lil Red Stitch #1 (of 5)/$2.50 and 40 pgs. from Summertime Comics/ Story: Leslie Nichols; pencils: Courtney Huddleston/sold in comics shops and at rwoodward@mac.com.

     Review by Michael Vance

     MINIVIEW: Captain Gravity
Para [flip-book; $1] Nice un-inked art and no story in this preview (read: advertisement) for two upcoming titles from Penny Farthing Press.

     Review by Michael Vance


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