Sunday, 17 June 2007

Reviews: Franklin Richards, Re-Gifters, Tank Girl

Franklin Richards: World Be Warned issue 1 “Gravity Depravity!”, “Bully Breakdown!”, “Monkey Talk!”, “Build a Better 'Bot!” and “Frank Smash!” by Chris Eliopoulos (story, art and letters), Marc Sumerak (story and script), Brad Anderson (colours) and Mark Paniccia (editor), 25 pages of strip, Marvel Comics, August 2007, US$2.99

The cover suggests that this is going to be a parody of Marvel’s current “World War Hulk” cross-over storyline. This turns out not to be the case, which is lucky for me, as I tend not to read the mainstream Marvel titles and would probably have missed most of the jokes. Instead, it’s business as usual: Reed and Sue Richards’ young son Franklin getting into various wild scrapes, usually as a result of stealing some of his father’s gadgets, to the exasperation of his robot babysitter, HERBIE, while the Fantastic Four remain mostly oblivious.

The Hulk does appear in one of the five short tales here, but it is in his classic, infantile state. Reed has promised him a candy bar in return for taking part in some tests. Cue Franklin.

The Franklin Richards series continues to live in the shadow of Calvin and Hobbes, to which it owes much of its style and tone, although Franklin’s adventures are real (within the context of the story), not imaginary. Eliopoulos suffers most from the comparison, his art looking flat and empty compared with Bill Watterson’s remarkably accomplished and inventive draughtsmanship. But this is still good-natured and funny stuff.

Re-Gifters, written by Mike Carey, art by Sonny Liew and Marc Hempel, grey tones by Jesse Hamm, lettering by John J Hill, 144 pages of strip, DC Comics/Minx, 2007, US$9.99

Re-Gifters tells a story that conforms to a familiar pattern: Girl pursues The Wrong Boy, and in doing so neglects Her Real Self (represented here by taking part in a Hapkaido martial arts contest). When she reconnects with Her Real Self, she achieves self-respect, acclaim and The Right Boy.

Carey, Liew and Hempel may be following a formula of teenage fiction, but they do so in a lively way, with a well-paced story with lots of humour and quirky detail. For example, the title refers to a unique statuette, which the Girl (Dixie) gives to The Wrong Boy, who then gives it to the girl he’s really interested in it. The statuette passes through various hands before being given back to Dixie by The Right Boy. It’s a neat narrative macguffin which helps crystalise her disillusionment with The Wrong Boy.

Being every bit as much a white-middle aged Englishman as the writer, I have no idea if the portrayal of the Korean-American community of Los Angeles, from which Dixie springs, is authentic, but it feels convincing.

Liew and Hempel provide artwork that is loose, fluid and expressive, and which lifts every page. Notice here how the warped shape of the auditorium mirrors the heroine’s agitation and confusion.

Well worth a read, even if you are not one of the teenage girls at whom DC’s Minx line is aimed.

Tank Girl: The Gifting issue 1 “The Dogshit in Barney’s Handbag”, “Kill Jumbo!”, “The Gifting”, “Haiku”, “The Funsters Will Play”, written by Alan C Martin, art by Ashley H Wood, letters by Robbie Robbins, editor Chris Ryall, 22 pages of strip, IDW Publishing, May 2007, US$3.99

When Tank Girl first appeared in Deadline back in 1988, it seemed like a breath of fresh air (though Tank Girl herself probably never smelled particularly fresh). Creators Alan Martin and Jamie Hewlett either were or seemed young, and irreverent and hip, and their mix of sniggering humour, violence and spontaneity struck a cord with readers who also wanted to think of themselves as young, and irreverent and hip.

Tank Girl: The Gifting presents much the same mix as before: Martin’s crude jokes packed into barely-structured squib stories told in the wild art of a hot artist. But Hewlett is gone, and Ashley Wood has taken his place. Where Hewlett seemed to be making it up as he went along, Wood’s seems to be a carefully-planned wildness. And the thought kept nagging at me that, surely, Alan Martin must have grown up at least a little bit in the last 19 years. Is this just a pose? Was it just a pose back then?

So there is an air of calculation to this issue that makes it seem not quite right. It’s still amusing, in a puerile sort of way, and it’s strikingly drawn, but I’d hate to see Tank Girl become the oldest swinger in town.


Walaka said...

Hey, Steve! Sorry abut the threadjack and thanks for your help before - I, um, sort of tagged you in a meme. It’s at the end of the post.


Steve Flanagan said...

Sorry to be a meanie, Walaka, but I really don't do chain letters. This blog isn't about me, it's about comics, so I won't be taking part.

Walaka said...

It's all good, Steve!