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In which I read several of Larry’s comics, perhaps enticing you to buy some and thereby putting money in his son’s college fund

by  in Comic News Comment
In which I read several of Larry’s comics, perhaps enticing you to buy some and thereby putting money in his son’s college fund

In this post: Nothing but AiT/Planet Lar comics! Which means: Lots of Charlie Adlard! But there’s nothing wrong with that!

Many of these are books I picked up in San Diego, so they’ve been around for a while. But they may be new to you! So, in chronological order …

Nobody is written by Alex Amado and Sharon Cho, drawn by Charlie Adlard (get used to it), and lettered by Sean Konot. It retails at $12.95 and is published by … didn’t you read the blurb above the fold? Man, you people! Actually, this was first published by Oni Press, so if you’re in the mood to track down the single issues, they’ll have the Dave Gibbons-designed logo on them. This collection was first published back in 2000. Man, did the Internet even exist back then?

The star of Nobody is Jessica Drake, who can somehow change her facial appearance at will. It’s not explained in the comic, which may or may not annoy you. Jessica is some kind of investigator, where her malleable features come in handy, as you might expect, and when the book begins, she is breaking into a fancy San Francisco mansion and discovering that the people within are about to commence with a demonic ritual. Jessica stops the act and kills some of the participants, but the sacrifice – a young boy – is killed in the process. Jessica protects the boy’s soul from the Devil, and that’s where the trouble really begins. A few pages later, Jessica discovers that the wife and child of one of the escaped participants in the ritual were brutally murdered. She then comes across several child-killings and is plunged further into the mystery. She follows the trail of the murderer to New Orleans, where she discovers who the killer is and why he’s killing. It’s rather disturbing.

Amado and Cho’s story is a fairly standard horror tale, bleaker perhaps than most, but sufficiently creepy. There’s not a lot of mystery to it, but that’s fine – the crux of the story is Jessica’s confrontation with the killer and how she escapes his trap. Where the book works very well is in the interaction between Jessica and the killer and two of his victims. Jessica is a hard-boiled investigator, but she is fiercely protective of street kids, mainly because she was one herself. Her failures in the book are fascinating because they strike deeply at the core of her being. Amado and Cho do a good job showing that, on the surface, Jessica solves the case. But they make it clear that Jessica has failed in a much bigger way, and that failure will haunt her.

There’s also a prose story in this collection which is even more horrific than the comic. Jessica must stop a charismatic religious leader who has some kind of magical hold on his followers. This leader can make people see what he wants them to see, and when we realize that everything is not what it seems, the story takes a tragic turn that again ties into who Jessica is. She can change her appearance, while the cult leader can make people see a different appearance. It’s a disturbing short story.

Amado and Cho don’t delve too much into Jessica’s past, mainly because the ending of the mini-series is ambiguous and open for sequels. It doesn’t appear any sequels were forthcoming, which is why the lack of explanation for Jessica’s abilities may or may not annoy you. It doesn’t make the story as presented any worse, but it does prey on the back of your mind – why and how can Jessica do this? Who’s the mysterious man who gives Jessica jobs? It’s vaguely disappointing that we never find out. In one way, it makes the story better – Jessica remains an enigma. But Amado and Cho give us enough information about her past – her mentor in New Orleans and the hints about her being a long line of “nobodies” who fight paranormal crime – that it’s a bit sad we never got further into her world.

Adlard’s art, as usual, is stupendous. It’s astonishingly detailed, giving us a wonderful sense of both San Francisco and especially New Orleans, where much of the book takes place. Adlard even manages to make a meat locker, where most of the second half of the book occurs, visually interesting. Adlard is particularly good at faces – each character is distinctive and “normal”-looking. There are no superhuman beauties or ripped abs, just regular folk doing their thing. He uses the black areas on the page to great effect, making the comic even more noir-ish and fitting the tone of the story perfectly. I’m always curious why Adlard hasn’t become a bigger star. It might be by choice, as he doesn’t seem a good fit for superhero stuff, but it’s a shame. I guess he does well enough with The Walking Dead.

Nobody is a twisted little horror story that doesn’t offer us any easy answers. If it falls a little short because Amado and Cho obviously had more stories to tell, it’s still a creepy tale with great art that leaves us wondering about the depravity of the human soul. It’s certainly not cheery, but it is quite gripping. If you enjoy horror, it’s definitely something to check out.

Up next from AiT is White Death by Rob (more commonly known as “Robbie” these days) Morrison and, surprisingly enough, Charlie Adlard. This was first published in 2002 (although it originally came out in 1998, so maybe it should be first in this post, but what the hell) and costs $12.95. Of course, I can’t think of an AiT book that doesn’t cost $12.95, so let’s just assume that from now on, shall we?

White Death is a World War I story (the first of two in this post!), but a World War I story we don’t often see, set in the Italian Alps and showing the fighting between the Italians and the Austrians. Therefore, although there’s the typical World War I carnage, Morrison gives us the added twist of the action taking place high in the mountains, which lends the element of uncontrollable nature to the book and gives the book its name. The term “White Death” refers to an avalanche, and Morrison uses it adroitly if a bit heavy-handedly as a metaphor for war. Even so, this is a stunning comic that’s a war comic with something new to say, which is kind of a trick.

The main character is Pietro Aquasanta, who grew up in the region the troops now fight over. He lived in an Italian province of the Austro-Hungarian Empire when war broke out, so he was conscripted into the Imperial Army. Italy was neutral when the war began, but when it entered the war on the Allied side, Pietro was captured and given the option of fighting for “his” country. He arrives on the front under the command of Sergeant-Major Orsini, who, in a brief prologue, shoots his commanding officer because the man wanted to retreat and blames it on a sniper. Just to give you an idea of what kind of guy he is. Orsini, of course, isn’t happy having someone he considers a traitor in his squad, but he’s much more concerned with holding the line against the Austrians.

For the first part of the book, Morrison and Adlard do an excellent job showing the horrors of trench warfare. Then, while Pietro is on reconnaissance higher up in the mountains, the Austrians launch a gas attack against the Italian lines. In desperation, Pietro, who as a youth climbed the mountains with his father, causes an avalanche, which disperses the gas. This, naturally, gives both sides the idea to cause more strategic avalanches, which, not unlike war, escalates out of their control. Pietro is bitter about his desperation tactic being used as a weapon of war, but it’s out of his hands.

The avalanche aspect of the book is actually not the most important. It’s useful as a metaphor, of course, but the story of how war dehumanizes people is the center of the book, which isn’t surprising. Morrison does an excellent job with this, as instead of beating us over the head with it, he shows it in subtle and interesting ways, like the way a relatively innocent soldier gradually loses that innocence. Pietro’s status as a soldier who has fought on both sides helps make this point, too. Pietro survives an infantry charge and finds himself face-to-face with a former comrade, and the two discuss the horrible situation in which they’ve been placed. Morrison deftly places the blame on everyone involved in the war, not just the politicians and generals who send young soldiers to die, and that increases the power of the book. Orsini’s animosity toward Pietro comes to a head in the dramatic finale, when the Italians attack the town of Alighieri and the use of the avalanche as a weapon becomes a horribly ironic event. In a comic that could easily fall into cliché or heavy-handedness because of the brilliant central metaphor, Morrison manages to tell a war story that, while it doesn’t necessarily tell us anything new about conflict, reveals its themes in fascinating and horrific ways.

Adlard shifts styles for this book, and the results are staggering. Morrison’s introduction states that he uses charcoal and chalk on gray paper, and what we get is a war comic that looks like war feels – scruffy, dirty, undefined, messy, and even disturbingly majestic. The avalanches are rendered magnificently, becoming over the course of panels a terrifying force, sweeping everything away. In the darkness of the meeting between Pietro and his old comrade, Adlard gives us fear, sadness, regret, and beauty as the two men part, all without Morrison’s help, as the words, while excellent, remain a bit prosaic. And the final battle is astonishing, as snow lightly covers the horror on the ground and reminds us that everything is transitory. The art blends perfectly with the story, and it’s an amazing achievement.

White Death is a brilliant comic, one I highly recommend. War comics are difficult to pull off, but Morrison and Adlard do an excellent job with this. It’s unlike any war comic out there, and even though it makes most of the same points war comics do, it does it so expertly that it feels like something completely new.

Our next selection is Codeflesh by Joe Casey and the ubiquitous Adlard. It was originally published by Image in 2001, but this collection is from 2003. In a shock twist, it costs $12.95. That crazy Larry with the pricing and all that!

I have heard about Codeflesh for some time but never got around to reading it. The Man of Action booth at San Diego had it, so I snatched it up! Wouldn’t you? You probably should. This is a nice gritty tale of a dude who wears a mask with a bar code on it. That’s gold!

The story is somewhat familiar, so familiar that Casey would revisit it in Nixon’s Pals, which came out earlier this year. Cameron Daltrey is a bail bondsman in Los Angeles who writes bonds for super-powered bad guys who are a big flight risk. The reason he does this is because he wants them to skip so he can pull on his mask and go beat them up. No one knows he does this, because, as we learn, he almost killed one of the skips and was ordered by a judge to give up the bounty hunting. However, that’s such a rush that he didn’t give it up – he just claims he hires this freaky dude with the mask on his face to hunt the bad guys down. Nobody knows who he is, and Cameron can keep doing what he does and get the rush of violence. Meanwhile, he’s having trouble with his stripper girlfriend because he keeps ditching her to go beat people up. So yes, on one level it’s all very familiar.

Casey and Adlard keep it entertaining, however, because they’re talented. Adlard brings the characters to life, as he always does, not just through the way he draws the figures, but through the way he places them in the context of a seedy Los Angeles. This is a real-life city, full of grit and grime and cheesy diners and depressing strip clubs and dark alleys. He also brings humanity to the bad guys, who range from evil to pathetic. The pathetic ones are, perhaps not surprisingly, more interesting – Adlard shows us that they are beaten up by circumstances and see no other way out. Adlard does a good job making them pathetic but still trying to put up a front of toughness – something they share with Cameron, actually.

Casey, as usual, creates memorable characters and simply turns them loose. If Cameron’s attitude toward Maddie, his girlfriend, who loves him despite his unreliability, feels a bit clichéd, it’s because people unfortunately act this way. Cameron isn’t a complete heel, of course, and his attempts to overcome his addiction to action are the center of the comic. On the one hand, he wants to quit, but on the other hand, he doesn’t feel quitting is important enough to save his relationship. This dichotomy is interesting, because usually the hero tries to quit but he keeps finding reasons to get sucked back in. Cameron, however, doesn’t make an effort to quit – he just thinks he can keep balancing the two parts of the his life. His failure leads to the final issue, which is where the book becomes transcendent.

Issue #8 is one of those comics that changes the way we view comics and how they can be done. It’s the kind of thing that can only be done in comics, and it makes us wish more people used the medium in the way Casey does. Through the first seven issues, Codeflesh is a fairly typical gritty comic about a guy who tries to do good but often makes bad choices – in other words, nothing we haven’t seen in hundreds of comics, television shows, and movies. That doesn’t make it bad, because it’s a compelling read, but it’s nothing terribly special. Issue #8, which concludes the book, is a tour de force of both writing and art. Cameron finally decides to tell Maddie that he puts on a mask and goes bounty hunting, and that’s why he’s often absent for her. He begins to write a letter – on the first page of the issue, we see him writing on paper. Then he gets a phone call about a skipped bond and goes to work, but Casey and Adlard do something fascinating and, as far as I know, unique. Adlard draws the story of Cameron bringing the guy in, but the text of the issue is the letter Cameron writes. It’s not in text boxes, either – the word balloons are the words Cameron is writing, so it looks as if every character is dictating the letter. Casey even drops some text into signs along the way and even the music Maddie strips to. Lots of writers have done this juxtaposition between pictures on the page and text boxes, but it’s fascinating to see it done in word balloons, because the words and what’s happening in the panels fit seamlessly. At one point, Cameron writes that he knows what Maddie will say: “Cameron, could you be a bigger asshole?! This is fucked up!” At that point, his partner Staz is driving toward him to pick up a beaten-up skip and talking to Cameron on the phone, and that’s exactly what Staz would say in the situation. The synergy between the words and pictures make this a brilliant issue, and the fact that it ends on a bittersweet note makes it all the more effective. It’s the kind of thing I wish we saw more of in comics, because it works so well in this medium and wouldn’t work as well in others (it’s been done in movies, for instance, but it feels affected).

The final issue elevates the entire book. I’m not sure if I’d recommend it if not for the final issue, even though I like the first seven chapters. It’s just that it’s not anything we haven’t seen before. But the final issue is such an amazing piece of comic-book craft that I’d suggest checking it out. It takes a decent, exciting comic and makes it into something truly refreshing and new. And we don’t see that too often in comics. (Chad Nevett breaks issue #8 down much better here, if you’re interested – lots of SPOILERS, though.)

Moving on, we come across Monster Attack Network, a 2007 work by Marc Bernardin and Adam Freeman (who wrote it) and Nima Sorat (who drew it). For – let’s say it together! – $12.95, this can be yours!

I remember when this came out last year, it got a bunch of good reviews, and I was keen to read it. Unfortunately, its premise is a lot better than its execution. When you read stuff like this, you need to suspend your disbelief, but the problem with this is that it willfilly messes with your suspension of disbelief to the point that I just can’t enjoy it. It’s too bad, because I really wanted to like it.

The premise itself is fine: a South Pacific island is regularly menaced by monsters, so they have a “Monster Attack Network” to protect them. M.A.N. is much like any other government agency, except, you know, way cooler. So this gives the creators a chance to create wacky monsters, and Sorat generally does a good job with the fevered products of the creators’ imagination. The monsters, for the most part, are monstrous. Plus, because it’s a government agency, we get some interesting “behind-the-scenes” stuff and, of course, the problems that come from dealing with other parts of the government. The balance between the outrageous monster stuff and the more mundane stuff is a big strength of the book, as it helps ground the wackiness.

Bernardin and Freeman tell a fairly straight-forward story once we accept that monsters attack this island with stunning regularity. A new M.A.N. recruit shows up, and the boss immediately suspects that there’s something unusual about her. She has some dark secret that she’s not willing to talk about, and she’s much better at her job than a new recruit ought to be. Meanwhile, there’s a businessman who obviously has his own agenda. But is it a sinister agenda or not????

(Wearing a dress like that, she would totally be going commando!)

All this points toward a slightly generic action-adventure story, with the obvious bonus of featuring monsters. Most of the reviews (from what I can find, since Googling it simply floods us with news of Disney buying the property) seem to revel in the sheer craziness of the monster-fighting, without considering where the book fails. I suppose you can argue that we need to turn our brains off a bit when reading this, because it’s meant to be a summer-movie big-budget flick that simply requires us to say “Wow, that’s awesome,” but I find that difficult to do. Monster Attack Network has too many holes that I can’t fill, and that mitigates the coolness of a woman riding a giant slug, Paul Atreides-style.

First, the setting: Lapuatu, an island in the South Pacific. Obviously this is supposed to be a Polynesian paradise, but it looks like a American city. Islands in the South Pacific don’t have cities that look like it. The closest is probably Auckland, and that’s like a large town. I honestly don’t care where the monsters come from (it’s never explained), because, as one character points out, they’re like a natural disaster – the inhabitants just have to live with it. But from the very beginning, this setting seemed really off to me. We’re in the South Pacific, yet the natives seem to be a subset of society. Again, is Lapuatu supposed to be somehow analogous to New Zealand? Maybe. But it just feels completely wrong to me.

Second, the plot, which, as I pointed out above, is fairly generic. That wouldn’t be a problem if it made sense. We get a banal reason for the bad guy to do what he does, but even that isn’t really fleshed out too much. Basically, he’s evil because … well, because he is. He’s so obviously evil from the very beginning, too, that the book loses all suspense because we’re just waiting for him to do something evil, and when he does, it’s a disappointing evil deed. Lana, the new recruit, and Nate, her boss, are decent characters, but Lana’s arc, particularly, is also fairly obvious and underexplained. When we do get an explanation, it’s so weird as to require more, but we don’t get it. Perhaps in this world of monsters attacking all the time, the folk of Lapuatu simply accept things and move on, but we don’t live in Lapuatu. We need a little more, especially as Lana is so important to the entire plot of the book.

Third, the writing. While I have no problem with most of the witticisms that Bernardin and Freeman put in the script, it gets back to the idea of Lapuatu: there’s no sense of place here. The “chief” of the island deliberately speaks poor English in public to promote the stereotype of the “noble savage.” It’s not funny, and it makes no sense. There are a lot of “Americanisms” in the script as well – a reference to “Grey’s Anatomy,” for instance – that pulls us out of the story. Why invent a brand new island when you’re just going to turn it into Los Angeles?

Fourth, the art. While Sorat’s frenetic style suits the book for the most part, there are some panels that are simply indecipherable. I’ll give him a pass on putting the Bellagio casino in Lapuatu, but occasionally the panels are so busy it’s very difficult to determine what’s going on. This is especially a problem in the climax of the book, and it’s unfortunate. For the most part, the art is the strongest part of the book, but even then, it can’t carry everything, and when it lets us down, the book becomes that much weaker. It’s too bad.

Ultimately, this is an example of a book with a good hook and not much else. It’s one of those things where people sit around and one of them says, “What if there was a government agency that fought monsters!” and everyone else says, “That’s so awesome!” but the first person never develops the idea further. Yes, it’s a cool idea. That doesn’t make it a good comic book. Read Dan Brereton’s Giantkiller if you want a really good book about fighting monsters.

Let’s move onto this year and two recent releases. First is Aces: Curse of the Red Baron by Shannon Eric Denton, G. Willow Wilson, and Curtis Square-Briggs. So many names! I wonder if it’s $12.95? Let’s check … yep. Interestingly enough, I mentioned this book to Wilson at San Diego, and she mused at how long ago she contributed to it (whatever she actually contributed). As with our next book, it’s fascinating to peer behind the curtain every once in a while and realize how long it takes some books to make it to press.

Anyway, this starts off really well. So well, in fact, that the disappointing ending is perhaps heightened for me and makes me even madder. As you can tell from the title, it’s a World War I book. A British pilot, Heath Bennett, and an American infantryman, Frank Grayson, get in a bar brawl over who shot down Manfred von Richthofen, the Red Baron. Bennett inspected the body and found a map. This map causes nothing but trouble, especially for these two hardly-committed-to-the-cause soldiers. They believe it’s a treasure map, showing an island near Sweden where von Richthofen stashed ill-gotten gains. They steal a plane and head off to find the treasure. I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to say that the Red Baron isn’t actually dead (we find it out on page 5) and that Bennett and Grayson have gotten into something much bigger than they could imagine.

For much of the book, it’s a good comic. Yes, it’s a war book, but Bennett and Grayson have a strange, “Odd-Couple” kind of relationship, and that keeps the tone a bit light even as darker elements begin to seep in. There’s nothing wrong with making a war story a bit lighter than we might expect, and although some people might be put off by it, Denton and Wilson manage to make sure we don’t forget that there’s a horrible war going on even as Bennett and Grayson argue with each other. They each have a raffish kind of charm, and although their dialogue isn’t perfect, it’s pretty good.

Square-Briggs has a good, rough style that doesn’t do much to dazzle but tells the story well. I read a criticism of it in which the reviewer didn’t like it because he’s not great at the aerial scenes, but the fact that it’s not majestic reminds us how fragile these biplanes were. Square-Briggs makes it look as if it’s a miracle these things could get off the ground, which, in a way, it was. The scenes on the ground work well, too, although the climactic scene gets a bit murky (which is partly because the story gets murky, to be fair). Still, I have no problem with the art.

Where the book falls apart is when the secrets are revealed. Bennett and Grayson discover that von Richthofen is involved in a vast conspiracy, and although I don’t have anything against conspiracies per se, they are kind of worn out. Then the conspiracy gets more and more ridiculous, and although I don’t want to give it away, it’s silly. It ruins the mood of the book, which had been a decent World War I adventure with some humor, and becomes a weird, Planet-of-the-Apes kind of thing (trust me) that is obvious from the moment a character called the “Wolf” starts explaining it. It’s also a wee bit insulting, because it implies that people need to be manipulated into killing each other. People don’t need shady excuses to slaughter each other. It’s just fun! The entire third act of the book is bogged down with clichés about the nature of war, why people fight, how to stop it, and why it won’t work. It’s frustrating, because the first two-thirds of the book or so is a decent war adventure with a bit of intrigue about the Red Baron’s map and the mysterious island. When the mysteries of the island are revealed, the book falls apart. Damn. I wanted to like it a lot more.

As usual, if you like historical epics with some science fiction thrown in (that’s all I’m going to say!), you might like this book. Denton and Wilson have both done much better work, though.

Last but not least, we get the most recent offering: Dugout by Adam Beechen and Manny Bello. Publisher: You know the damned publisher! Price: You know the damned price! Sheesh! Incidentally, I was talking to Larry at San Diego and he mentioned that this took over five years to create. I love hearing stuff like that, because it just shows how difficult it is to pull something together. So books by people not working for DC and Marvel become a bit more impressive to me, because it’s so hard to do. But enough of that! What about the comic?

As you can probably tell by the title and the cover, baseball plays a huge role in the book. We begin at the end of the 1959 season, as the Los Angeles Pioneers lose on a walk-off home run to their cross-town rivals, the Dodgers. While the Dodgers go on to postseason fame (the Dodgers won the World Series in 1959), the Pioneers face another off-season as losers. Their owner, Oscar Blakemore, yells at the manager, Cookie Palisetti, who convinced Blakemore to buy the franchise in Southern California just before the Dodgers announced they were moving to LA. Blakemore wants Cookie to “retire” their star pitcher, Wilbur “The Rev” Miles (no, he doesn’t want Cookie to kill Miles, just fire him), and asks him how they’re going to win in 1960. Cookie tells Blakemore that if they had Billy Luther, a young phenom (with “Dean’s arm, Feller’s speed, and Podres’s mechanics,” although given what happened to Dizzy, maybe they don’t want Luther to have Dean’s arm) they’d be a good team. Unfortunately, two days after the Pioneers drafted Luther, he impaled his mother with a pitchfork and ran over his father with a tractor and is now serving 35-to-life in prison. So that’s a small problem.

Cookie thinks he’s out of a job, and as he owes a lot of money to shady bookies, he decides to leave town. Then the femme fatale shows up, in the person of Billy’s sister, Irene. She begs Cookie to help get Billy out of prison, so he checks to see if there’s any hope. While he’s visiting the prison, he sees that the warden has built a nice little baseball dynasty on the inside, and Billy doesn’t appear to want help with getting parole. Cookie thinks it’s hopeless, but Irene, perhaps not surprisingly, convinces him to find another solution the way women throughout history have gotten hapless men to do foolish things! And so Cookie, quite naturally, decides to break Billy out of prison! Of course! It’s the perfect solution!

The book then gets into Cookie’s plan, and it’s a fun ride. Miles, it turns out, was an inmate at the prison years before, and because Cookie was the only person who gave him a job when he got out, he says he’ll help. They get some inside help as well, and once they arrange an exhibition game between the Pioneers and the warden’s team, the plan swings into high gear. Beechen does a nice job with the plot, because although it’s a bit far-fetched, we believe it could work. He also does a good job with the characters. I don’t quite buy Cookie and Irene together (and I’m not telling if she’s just using him or actually has feelings for him), because in a relatively short book like this, we don’t get enough scenes with them to think that they might be a real couple. Plus, while I don’t always have a problem with much older men dating much younger women, in this case it seems off. I don’t know why – it just seems weird. I think it has to do with the fact that their relationship isn’t developed enough. The main plot, however, plays out nicely, and Beechen does a much better job with the friendship of Cookie and Miles. These are two men who are far from the most talented people in baseball (as many people remind them throughout the book), but they stay in the game because they love it so much. There’s no Field of Dreams James Earl Jones philosophizing about the Grand Old Game, which is greatly appreciated, because Beechen philosophizes about the game simply by showing that these two men are unwilling to give up on this sport, despite the rapid deterioration of their skills. This is where the book shines, as Cookie must make choices about his future and how it’s going to affect Billy, Miles, and Irene. Miles, meanwhile, gets one last chance to show what he has, and although that’s a staple of sports-related entertainment, Beechen does a good job of making it as “realistic” as possible while still making it a magical moment. These two men both find redemption in their own way, and it’s a powerful ending to what seems, on the surface, to be a caper comic with baseball tacked on.

Bello does a good job making Cookie’s world as gritty as possible, and not in a “grim-n-gritty” way, either. This book takes place in prison and on a baseball diamond, after all, so there’s bound to be dirt. The players look like they’ve just battled in the dust, and he does a nice job surrounding Irene with an aura that seems to wick off all the dirt that settles on everyone else. The baseball scenes work surprisingly well, as Bello chooses to get in for close-ups on players swinging or the ball hitting a glove instead of pulling back to give us a wider shot. It reminds me of low-budget movies that can’t show a wide shot so instead zoom in so we don’t see that the action doesn’t really exist. Except Bello doesn’t have a budget, so he could do wide shots, but the way he lays out the baseball scenes give the games an intense intimacy, and it works very well. It also sets up the final page nicely, although that’s all I’m going to say about that!

I should mention the baseball aspects a bit, because Beechen brings it up. The beginning is a bit odd, because Beechen shows later that he knows what he’s talking about with regard to the game (I would even go so far as to say Cookie is a shout-out to Cookie Lavagetto, who played for a while in the majors – his claim to fame is his last big-league hit, a pinch-hit double for the Dodgers in the 1947 World Series that spoiled Bill Bevens’ bid for a no-hitter – and managed some bad teams in the late 1950s). But on the first page, the radio announcer mentions that the Dodgers are “front-running.” Then, we find out that Miles is the Pioneers’ “pitching leader” and that he came out of the bullpen for this game. That’s not completely unheard-of, but relief pitching in 1959 wasn’t considered all that important (the league leader in saves had 15, while the league leader in complete games had 21), so Miles probably wouldn’t have been their “leader” if he was coming out of the bullpen. Finally, when the Dodgers win, the announcer mentions that they’re going to play a three-game playoff with the Braves. If they were “front-runners,” why did they need to win to tie? Back in 1959, teams only played a playoff if they were tied at the end of the season – it wasn’t like today, where the playoffs are scheduled. Now, the Braves had won the pennant in 1957 and 1958, so it’s conceivable that the Dodgers would need to play them in a playoff (in the “real” world, they finished a game ahead of Milwaukee, and they had played playoffs against teams before, most notably in 1951, when Bobby Thomson hit a home run baseball fans may have heard of), but it’s weird that the announcer mentions it so casually. But then Beechen mentions how good Connie Mack was, and of course he’s right, so all’s well in the world. I just had to get that off my chest! By the third page, the baseball stuff settles down, and I can move on.

Well, if I haven’t driven you off by writing so much about baseball, I’ll reiterate: This is a nice caper book with more going on underneath than you might think. It fits together well, it looks good, and Beechen and Bello do a good job with the baseball aspects of the comic. Give it a try!

Well, that’s all of the AiT books I have right now. It’s always interesting reading the books Larry and Mimi publish, because you never know what you’re going to get. Even if the books aren’t great, they’re certainly different! And they’re always in print!

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