Bookhunter (Sparkplug Comics)

bookhunter-header.jpgHard-boiled library detectives track a stolen book in this send-up of police procedurals and ’70s cop dramas.

 

 

144 pgs. B&W w/ sepia accents; $15.00

(W / A: Jason Shiga)

 

The cover to Jason Shiga's Bookhunter. Click for a larger image.Jason Shiga’s Bookhunter is a loving tribute to all things biblio that takes the form of a police procedural, with frequent nods to the cop-movie clichés of the ‘70s. Imagine a big-city police department that devotes its S.W.A.T. team, helicopter, wiretapping efforts and so on to the end of recovering stolen books and rooting out patrons with overdue items. The Oakland, Ca. "Library Police," embodied by serious-as-a-heart-attack Agent Bay, are hot on the trail of a forger who’s stolen an 1838 bible that once belonged to John Quincy Adams, and replaced it with an expert copy.

The Library Police don’t mess around. When they’re not examining evidence and speculating on "double-harness loom" bindings, "kettle stitches," and ultra-rare "incunabula" books, they’re careening down the streets of San Francisco in boxy Bookmobiles, in hot pursuit of their quarry.

Evidently a great lover of book culture, Shiga has a ball with the outmoded ‘70s-era technology of the library. In their quieter moments, the cops twiddle Microfilm readers and prowl the dusty stacks for clues. Later, Agent Bay leaps onto a shelving cart and rolls through the library after a thug. He beats the bad guy with one of those newspapers-on-a-stick you can still find in some periodical sections. There’s a show-stopping fight involving card-catalog shelves worthy of a Jackie Chan movie.

The clichés of squad cars flying over the crests of steeply banked San Francisco streets, perps fleeing across closely spaced rooftops, and so on, pepper the action.

The Library Police get down to business. Click for a larger image.When the biblio kleptos are feeling the heat, Shiga is at his best. The cops call in an American Library Association "profiler" to describe a criminal, a la Scott Glenn in Silence of the Lambs. When Agent Bay interrogates a suspect back at the station, he lowers the boom: "[you] returned three copies of Judy Blume’s Forever with the erotogenic passages removed from each one," he says angrily. "That was five years ago!" protests the squirming suspect. It’s priceless.

Shiga’s characters are adorable little troll-like figures with perfectly round heads (like Fisher Price Little People, but with arms). The disparity between their high cuteness quotient and the mock-seriousness of the story makes for a quirky contrast.

Bookhunter is a loving parody that does everything right, from the faux library-book checkout card with sleeve on the frontispiece, to the final image of a book slamming shut, signaling the end of a satisfying mystery, and of the comic, too. | Byron Kerman

Read Jason Shiga’s Bookhunter for yourself at http://www.shigabooks.com/books/bookhunter.html.

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