Headlines   2004 Review Index   February 18, 2004
Suspended Animation &

Michael Vance

Mark Allen

Michael Vance Books

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Broad Appeal

            "Womens is frickle," says Popeye, and he is right. But the one-eyed sailor doesn't generalize enough.  Women are also intelligent, kind, loving, loyal, industrious, nurturing, and social--very, very social.

            Broad Appeal is a paperback anthology, a social gathering of words and art about the lives and thoughts of women. It is published by The Friends of Lulu, a "national not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting the works of female cartoonists and involving more women in the readership of comics". That is a worthy mission but one with an inherent problem that, when reversed, leaves women yelling at men. Despite a cover blurb that reads "An Anthology....for Everyone!", everyone may buy, but only women cartoonists are allowed inside.

            Friends.... is a discriminatory organization. A discussion on equality must wait for another column.

            A discussion of style, however, is appropriate in Suspended Animation, but difficult.  Why?  The word broad can be an insulting comment on a women's anatomy or mean "wide, full, complete". Broad Appeal is stylistically wide and full.

            The art in each one-to-four page piece ranges from a minimalist doodle to a polished, realistic style. Overall, it looks like a '60s under-ground comic book, and no one will either like or hate every style represented.

            Its content is what will separate the men from the boys from this title. Don't except much adventure in the broadest (sorry, I couldn't resist) sense of the term. A tiny sliver of the superhero, SF, and fantasy genres does little to diminish a huge pie about female relationships.

            This is a Chick Flick on paper.

            But wise men know that unless you understand the gender, you will never enjoy the fruits of the list that began this column.

            And that list is far from complete.    

            Broad Appeal is recommended for women of all ages, and for men with the courage to want to understand women of all ages. MV

            Broad Appeal/128 pgs. & $9.95 /available at comics shops and www.friends-lulu.org.

     Review by Michael Vance

The 8th Wonder

            In an age when all mechanical wonders are powered by coal, the Trans-European Empire attempts the incredible, perhaps impossible, task of building a massive, city-sized bridge across the Atlantic.  What better time for a mousey, yet brilliant little scientist to come along with an astounding new invention, which provides clean, abundant power, in an almost magical way.  When Dr. Viln Agrine does so, however, he draws the attention, and greedy machinations of Lord Parsons, "the Fourth Earl of Dogsbottom," and is thrown into the lower levels of the bridge, to be used as slave labor.  What, now, for the doctor, his invention, and the amazing bridge? 

Having originally appeared serialized, in Dark Horse Presents, issues 85 through 87,

            The 8th Wonder was collected in 1997.  To date, it is one of the most unusual stories I've ever read.  Unusual is good, in a medium that continues to need fresh material to balance out a steady...and stale...diet of super heroes. Writer Peter Janes pens a tale which is unusual in it's ability to grasp and hold a reader.  Agrine elicits sympathy as a protagonist, just as Parsons proves an entertaining, properly-villainous antagonist.

            Kilian Plunkett's art work is, to be blunt, amazing.  It's unusual, in that such detail is rarely seen in comics.  One of the most talented artists in the comics industry, his work possesses an amazing sense of depth and complexity, and does not become "muddled," when working in black and white, as the work of many artists does.  His characters are visually entertaining, as he seems to have mastered the art of character expression.  The 8th Wonder is definitely one of those works in which the art helps an already-ample story tremendously.  

            The 8th Wonder is recommended for those who enjoy good science fiction, and superior characterization.

            The 8th Wonder, published by Dark Horse Comics, 24 pages (no ads), $2.95 original cover price. Find it in comic shops, online auctions, or comic conventions.  (Don't ignore the bargain box!)

     Review by Mark Allen


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