The Lost Colony Book 2: The Red Menace (:01 First Second Books)

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lostcolony-header.jpgCartoony artwork helps bring to life this analogue to the famously doomed Roanoke colony that takes its jabs at modern day politics without being afraid to throw in a fart joke for laffs.


128 pages FC; $16.95

(W / A: Grady Klein)


Miscreants and misfits populate a mysterious hidden island in Grady Klein's irreverent take on American history. The Lost Colony: The Red Menace throws together a greedy governor, an altruistic ex-slave, a "reformed" Native American, and a host of other not-so historically accurate characters, all trying to get by in an analogue of the famously doomed Roanoke colony.


As the old adage goes, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Klein seems eager to make sure we recognize the mistakes and the greed of colonial times, to the point where easy comparisons can be made between the titular colony's characters and certain modern-day counterparts. When the sleazy governor/head banker of the town makes an impassioned speech about the courage it takes to admit to being a war profiteer, it's hard for me not to think of like-minded organizations like Halliburton and Blackwater USA.


The cover to Book 2 of Lost Colony. Click thumbnail for a larger image.Klein also explores the topic of propaganda in the in-universe comic book "The Completely True Adventures of Johnny Crevasse ... Hunter, Patriot," which stars a kind of colonial Captain America (he even has a sidekick named Bucky!) whom nearly every character is fascinated with. Crevasse (who never actually makes a real appearance in the story) has an entire line of merchandise glorifying his one-man war against the native red menace; naturally, the members of the community eat it up.


The book isn't all heavy-handed, important issue-style humor though. For every poke at modern times there's an instance of slapstick, a fart joke, or a bit of censored-out profanity. The cartoonish style of Klein's art also marks it as a book not to be taken too seriously. It makes some interesting critiques, but it's a fun read, too.


Klein's artistic style is refreshingly unique; it reminds me a bit of classic European comics like Asterix or Tintin, but with thicker line work and a touch of the surreal. His full-page and two-page spreads are gorgeous and colorful. It makes me wish that the book was published in a larger format; as it stands, it's about three-quarters the size of a regular trade paperback, and I think the book suffers for it.


All in all, book 2 of The Lost Colony is a surprisingly deep read for its cartoonish look. Klein evens out the political and societal humor with good, old-fashioned belly laugh moments quite well. It's not as scathing as the jacket text makes it out to be, but it's an entertaining diversion that has the potential to elicit some interesting responses. Check it out. | Jared Vandergriff


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