Robot 6

Reviews | ‘Iron Bound,’ ‘Beach Girls’ and Pippi Longstocking

Iron Bound

Iron Bound

Iron Bound by Brendan Leach, Secret Acres, 252 pages, $21.95.

Leach’s big follow-up to 2011’s Pterodactyl Hunters is a very entertaining, tightly paced crime comic about two hoodlums living in Newark, New Jersey, in the early ’60s and the trouble they get into running “errands” for one of the local gangsters. I really liked the way Leach sets up the story, with a violent incident on a bus that quickly establishes the characters’ personalities and relationships to each other but also becomes an even more significant incident once you learn what those two were doing on that bus. Leach has an angular, slashing style that fits the grittiness of the material and also keeps the narrative moving a hurried clip, rarely taking a moment to pause. There’s at least one big plot hole that gave me pause (without spoiling anything, I find it difficult to believe that a certain ancillary character’s death would generate such a minor reaction from family members, friends and various authorities not on the take). A bit more perspective and varied viewpoints (it’s notable there’s no parental units to be found in Iron Bound) might have given the story a bit more depth, although it could also have easily slackened the book’s drumbeat pace. Overall, this is a sharp, strong book, a smart follow-up to Hunters and proof that Leach is a cartoonist to watch. The book even comes with a flexi-disc record to play during the story’s big fight/climax, a really terrific conceit, even if the nerd in me is hesitant to play it, for fear of damaging the book’s “mint” condition (you never know what might be worth money some day).

Beach Girls by Box Brown, Retrofit Comics, 35 pages, $6.

Beach Girls

Beach Girls

A young 20-something discovers the joys of surfing, pot and just hanging out at the beach, maxing and relaxing, thanks to the tutelage of  a somewhat-anxious (but philosophical) surfer dude. In a certain way, this comic is about the kind of self-discovery and awareness that can occur in your 20s when moved outside of your daily routine or introduced to a person that has a distinctly different viewpoint from your own. In another way, it’s a simple short comic about a young girl’s vacation. Either way, I liked this comic. The back-up story by James Kochalka is pretty funny, too.

Pippi Fixes Everything by Astrid Lindgren and Ingrid Vang Nyman, Drawn and Quarterly, 56 pages, $14.95.

By all rights, I shouldn’t cotton onto a comic book version of Pippi Longstocking. The cute, diminutive little girl Nyman depicts in these comics doesn’t jibe at all with the tall, tomboyish, slightly goofy-looking girl I imagined when reading Lindgren’s original stories all those years ago. Plus, Nyman’s art has a stiff, standoffish quality to it, which you could see working well in a children’s storybook where the individual tableaus have more space to be taken on their own merits, but not necessarily in a comic where the quick succession of panels makes cast look more like paper doll cut-outs or rubber stamped images than a definable group of characters.

And yet I do cotton to these stories. Quite a bit in fact. For all the stiffness in her art, Nyman’s drawing exude more than a bit of charm. Part of that is due to Lindgren’s ability to blend Pippi’s good nature and general decency (and the occasional bit of pathos) with a high sense of absurdity. But it’s also due to the great, silly expressions Nyman can get out of the characters, particularly the adults. Bottom line: These are fun, colorful comics that are perfect for elementary school-age readers.

A User’s Guide to Neglectful Parenting by Guy Delisle, Drawn and Quarterly, 192 pages, $16.95.

Any parent of a young child (or formerly young child) will nod in uneasy agreement with this collection of short tales involving the varied ways in which Delisle says or does the exact wrong thing – or behaves in a generally selfish fashion – in front of his children, sometimes on purpose. Even the most sainted parent is guilty of something like forgetting to leave money out for a lost tooth or sharing a bit too much information gleaned from the nightly news. Delisle times his gags well, and none of the scenarios run past their sell-by date. Given the subject matter, though I’d probably be more likely to pick up a copy of this for the parent of a four-year-old than a fan of Burma Chronicles. This has the feel of a “gift book” written all over it. That’s not to slight Delisle for wanting to be funny or tackle something that isn’t ripped from today’s headlines. More that I think my co-worker with two little ones is going to enjoy this book a lot more than my friend at the comic store.

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