May 6, 2010

Jawas Read Comics!

Hello Po(sey) Sessions’ readers! My name is Erika and I run a book blog called Jawas Read, Too. I’ve been asked to participate in this month’s Comic Book theme. Being a comic book fan, naturally, I accepted. I still consider myself new to comics, never straying very far from Star Wars or manga, but within the past few years that’s been changing. To celebrate that and help other new comic book readers navigate the complexities of series, publishers, writers, and artists, I decided the best topic for my discussion was Free Comic Book Day! Specifically, I’ve included a mini review of one of the comics I got for free over the weekend.

FCBDGroup I won’t go into a long account of the history of Free Comic Book Day (the official website does that beautifully). Instead, I want to begin by confessing something: I have never reviewed a comic book. I have never, in fact, reviewed anything that wasn’t a book. I feel a little out of my element. Bear with me while I attempt to make the best of it and talk about some fantastic one-shot (i.e. stand alone) comics!

There were 10 free comic books available for this year. I only grabbed 4, but will be reviewing one. The first on my list was a flip book by Archaia. One side features a Mouse Guard story written and illustrated by David Petersen. The other, a Fraggle Rock story by, well, lots of people, including the fabulous Katie Cook (she worked on the maze activity page at the front). The other artists, I’m afraid, I’m not familiar with. Fraggle Rock has a special place in my heart. I grew up watching the television show; it helped prep me in the mornings for the awful stretch of months I waited to be transferred from an awful elementary school to, what I imagined to be, a paradise for kids filled with bunnies, unicorns, and cotton candy (it wasn’t, but it was still much, much better than where I’d fragglerockbig been). When I heard Archaia was not only producing a series of Fraggle Rock comics, but was doing a Fraggle Rock one-shot issue for FCBD, I was stoked. I had to have that comic.

There’s two stories in this issue: “Boober the Doozer” and “The Birthday Present.” The first sees Red accusing Boober of being about as exciting as a Doozer (little sentient creatures who build because they love it, but also because the Fraggles are constantly eating their material). Boober isn’t offended. On the contrary, he hatches a plan to become a Doozer. I won’t spoil it for those of you who have a copy, but haven’t read it yet. But Jake Myler’s artwork fits wonderfully with the whimsical nature of Fraggles, their universe, and Nichol Asworth’s story. It’s a great companion to the television show, which is one of the best compliments I can think to give. It’s allegorical, like all episodes were, but still manages an ambiance of nostalgia that older fans will appreciate.

“The Birthday Present” is a slightly different case. The story, I liked. Visiting Marjorie the Trash Heap is always fun, but the artwork, to be honest, frightened me a little. The colors are saturated and very bright. Everyone’s eyes were a pink shade and looked a bit too glossy and bizarre for my taste. It’s sure to please some fans, but I prefer something more subdued.

Archaia_Ent_Large Flip the comic around and upside down to reveal David Petersen’s Mouse Guard! The cover is gorgeous. A mouse with a bow and arrow facing down a huge turtle? Utterly in keeping with the scale of David Petersen’s story. I happen to love David Petersen’s artwork in part because it and his subject matter remind me of “The Secret of NIMH.” Again, this takes me back to my childhood which was filled with talking animals (“Charlotte’s Web” - the movie and the book; “Ferngully”; Disney’s “Robin Hood” and frankly, anything else Disney). I also love the idea of ascribing motivation and sentience to creatures we’d otherwise have no way to relate to. His fantastical story is one that’s sure to become a classic.

Gwendolyn, the leader of the mice, is reflecting on the efforts needed during spring to rebuild after winter. We follow her chronicle as she writes in her journal of necessity, of preparation, of events that happened during the Fall 1152 and Winter 1152 volumes (which the latter, as it happens, I haven’t read and therefore, managed to spoil myself without realizing it). The panels are beautifully illustrated to show mice working hard at their daily tasks, enemies living on the fringes of the Mouse Territories that constantly threaten the welfare of Gwendolyn’s people. Gwendolyn has to make tough decisions and this one-shot reflects this well.

David Petersen takes every detail into account. His panels are worthy of being prints in themselves. If we ever forget the scale of the world these mice inhabit, he always manages to zoom out and include some natural architecture (a fallen log; a rock; a river) to reorient the tall order of these mice that are small only in body. The color palette is brilliant in keeping with the nature that’s so vital and inescapable around them. They could inhabit almost anywhere in our world - the colors and style of Petersen’s artwork provides his mice with a realistic and plausible dignity.

ARCHAIA-logo What both Archaia comics (and other FCBD promotions) do is give you a glimpse into the world of each series, enough that you get a feel for whether you want to keep reading by going out and finding your local comic shop or bookstore and, hopefully, making a purchase, or not. I do not particularly recommend reading the Mouse Guard one-shot if spoilers bother you. If they don’t, then this is an entirely too teasing taste of what you’ll find if you read both volumes out in print right now. The Fraggle Rock is a different story. Because of the nature of the franchise, we are meant to follow the Fraggles on multiple adventures to reflect the liveliness of the television show. Read one issue, read another, I don’t think you’ll find a collective story that connects the characters. Rather, the cohesion comes from the various adventures and hijinks the Fraggles endure with such comical grace and warm friendship.

I hope you’ve been encouraged by this year’s FCBD, or this post, to make preparations for next year. It’s never too late to become curious about comics. You never know what you may find.

Erika was a college student, graduated with a B.A. in English Literature and Creative Writing, and frankly decided she couldn't stop being a student even if she wanted to. She also used to work in a bookstore and realized she needed to be around books and bookish people or she'd go crazy.  Writing book reviews is her way to keep in the "studying" mode, figure out why her tastes are what they are, and hopefully meet more people who love to talk about books as much as she does. You can find more of her reviews at her book blog: Jawas Read, Too!

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