Sunday, 12 August 2007

Review: Glister, Clubbing

Glister issue 1, by Andi Watson, 64 pages of strip, Image Comics, August 2007, US$5.99
“Glister and the Haunted Teapot”
Skeleton Key “Rock, Scissors, Paper”

A young girl called Glister Butterworth acquires a teapot haunted by the ghost of Philip Bulwark-Stratton, a Victorian novelist, who keeps badgering her to transcribe his final, unfinished novel.

This is a delightful, if slight, tale for children, with much humour arising from Bulwark-Stratton’s convoluted melodrama, and from Glister’s attempts to rid herself of the teapot and ghost which are monopolising her time. The lead character is sparky, and the setting is full of little details that give the imagined world texture, and which can be explored later in the series. Adults can enjoy the craftsmanship and the parallels with the real Edward Bulwer-Lytton (though they might wonder what the point is of the Thomas Pynchon reference, "lot 49" - unless the mysterious postal delivery of the teapot is significant).

Watson draws his own story in a style pitched somewhere between Quentin Blake and Fred Banbery’s illustrations to Paddington Bear, producing the very appropriate feel of a classic children’s book.

The back-up is an addition to Watson’s series about a dimension-hopping girl and her friend, a Japanese fox spirit, in a story about an unusual type of vampire. The draughtsmanship is in a style similar to that on the lead feature, but the panel compositions are, appropriately enough, much more manga-influenced.

The whole thing is a neat little package in a slim, case-bound B-format paperback. I only hope that, as a periodical publication by Image Comics, its distribution is not confined to comics shops, but that copies make their way into regular bookshops, where children might actually find them.

Clubbing, written by Andi Watson, illustrated by Josh Howard, lettering by Travis Lanham, 142 pages of strip, Minx/DC Comics, 2007, US$9.99

Watson’s other recent publication, in collaboration with artist Josh Howard, is less successful.

Lottie Brook, a rich teenage goth, is sent to stay with her grandparents in the country after being caught trying to sneak underage into a nightclub. There she stumbles across a murder on the golf course.

Watson’s story is a slightly uncertain mix of genres – culture-clash comedy, teen romance and whodunnit, with another genre thrown into the mix at the twist ending. None of these aspects is really developed enough to be satisfactory.

Howard’s art is a major let down. I enjoyed his work on Dead @ 17, but this script demands greater subtlety, and Howard does not rise to the challenge: his characters are inexpressive and his layouts rather dull. The only thing that seems to have engaged his interest is Lottie’s goth wardrobe. Although the story is set in one of the most distinctive landscapes in Britain, the Lake District, Watson and Howard just give us generic countryside – this could be happening in Surrey or upstate New York. When they take us to a town, the results are disastrous.

This might be a failed attempt at a faux-naïf style, but after checking, I notice that Howard avoided any challenging perspective drawing in Dead @ 17, so it may be genuinely naïf. Either way, it is ugly stuff, and a stark contrast to the character with which Watson infuses buildings in his own artwork.

Something of a misfire on all levels, then. Oddly, Clubbing was the first of the Minx line of books to have a sequel announced, presumably following Lottie on the trip to Tokyo announced on the last page here. I hope that Watson and Howard find themselves more in sympathy with the world’s biggest city than they did with an English National Park.

1 comment:

Knitster Doofus said...

Love your review of Glister. I just recently discovered her myself. You're so right - it's a great children's book in comic form!