All-Ages Roundup 05.09

superscary-header.jpgSarah Boslaugh reviews a trio recent all-ages releases: Ted Naifeh’s Courtney Crumrin and the Prince of Nowhere, Landry Walker and Eric Jones’ The Super Scary Monster Show Featuring Little Gloomy, and Kerry Callen’s Halo and Sprocket: Natural Creatures.

 

 

 

The cover to Courtney Crumrin and the Prince of Nowhere by Ted Naifeh. Click for a larger image.Courtney Crumrin and the Prince of Nowhere (Oni Press)

54 pgs., B&W; 2.99

(W & A: Ted Naifeh)

 

The Super Scary Monster Show Featuring Little Gloomy (SLG Publishing)

104 pgs, B&W, $9.95

(W: Landry Walker; A: Eric Jones)

 

Halo and Sprocket: Natural Creatures (SLG Publishing)

72 pgs, B&W, $8.95

(W & A: Kerry Callen)

 

Catching up with the pile of juvenile and all-ages comics which have landed on my desk recently, I’ll begin with Courtney Crumrin and the Prince of Nowhere, which continues the tale of the adventures of the heroine first seen in Courtney Crumrin and the Fire Thief’s Tale. If those titles remind you of book about a certain boy with magical powers, it’s probably not a coincidence: the Potter franchise made its author the 12th richest woman in Great Britain, so there’s no lack of lesser talents hoping to sweep up a few crumbs in her wake. Courtney is an odd little girl, of indeterminate age and apparently without parents or friends: in this volume she’s traveling in Germany with her uncle Aloysius. Along the way, she hears the story of Elizabeth Bathory (a 17th-century Hungarian countess rumored to have retained her youthful appearance by bathing in the blood of peasant girls) and meets a chess-playing male vampire whose intentions are not entirely clear. Of course the adults want to protect her from a fate worse than death while she’s not sure that she wants to be protected: he’s pretty hot and she’s pretty bored. The story is clumsy and relies too much on boilerplate, although these faults may be of less concern to the target market (ages 7+). Story aside, the art is great: pure black and white drawings in a spiky Gothic style which also incorporates the big eyes and expressive hair familiar from manga. You can find a preview at http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=preview&id=1573&disp=table.

The cover to the Super Scary Monster Show by Eric Jones. Click for a larger image.In contrast, The Super Scary Monster Show takes an entirely jokey approach to the scary monsters of the night (and day). It’s a spinoff of the series Little Gloomy and features the title character, a spunky little girl who lives in Frightsylvania and has to fend off regular attacks from all variety of monsters. The book is a collection of separate adventures (like episodes of a weekly television show: the preface is written like a page from TV Guide), in which Gloomy does everything from outwitting a space alien to interrogating the rather misnamed Tree of Wisdom ("I specialize in run-of-the mill questions with an emphasis on opinion-based, non-specific answers"). Eric Jones’ art is firmly in the kiddie cartoon mold: big heads, big eyes, and ever so cute, so even the monsters are more adorable than scary. The stories are quirky and can be enjoyed by adults as well as kids: like the classic Looney Tunes cartoons, they work on many levels at once. This volume is rated for all ages and there’s nothing to offend or scare even the youngest reader. The preview seems to have disappeared from the publisher’s web site, but you can read more about this volume at: http://www.slgcomic.com/The-Super-Scary-Monster-Show-Collection_p_29-655.html.

The cover to Halo and Sprocket: Natural Creatures by Kerry Callen. Click for a larger image.Halo and Sprocket: Natural Creatures is vol. 2 in the series which tracks the adventures of an attractive single gal named Katie and her somewhat improbable roommates Halo (an angel) and Sprocket (a robot). It’s a great setup point for philosophical ruminations as Katie must explain the conventions of human life to her pals who bring quite different perspectives to the table. They do come up with some questions: Why can’t you buy mouse-flavored cat food? Why doesn’t anyone ever speculate about what God smells like? Why is it cute when a kitten bites you, but frightening when a lizard does the same? Halo and Sprocket is often reminiscent of the television series Third Rock from the Sun, where the aliens have successfully assumed human form but keep tripping up on the illogicalities of interpersonal relationships, and the squeaky-clean tone reminds me of the legendary television series Davey and Goliath. Halo and Sprocket is rated for all ages, and you could safely read it in church: in fact sometimes that seems to be the intent of the author. The art is clean and attractive while exemplifying the twin concepts of "harmless and cute" which is a good match for these charming if sometimes explicitly didactic tales. A preview is available at http://www.slgcomic.com/Halo-Sprocket-Preview_ep_32.html and you can check out an interview with author Kerry Callen at http://blog.newsarama.com/2008/05/05/blog-qa-kerry-callen/. | Sarah Boslaugh

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