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COPPER

Kazu Kibuishi's "Copper" is a webcomic reprint with a lineage that would have to include "Calvin and Hobbes" and "Peanuts," to start. Copper and his dog, Fred, travel across a fantasy world that's populated with every conceivable landscape feature and building that one could imagine. (Sounds like Archie's Riverdale, doesn't it?) In each one page story, the two travel through a place and share a commentary on the human condition, told with humor and insightfulness. It's artfully inventive and inspired, while also sharply written. In short, it's everything I want from a webcomic today and then some.

The bulk of the book reprints single page gags/stories that Kibuishi created for the "Copper" site over the course of a year or so. They're squarely formatted, with differing panel arrangements for each story. Kibuishi knows that comics are still a visual medium, and so doesn't waste an inch of page space, providing plenty of eye candy to a reader as he or she appreciates the companionship of the two leads, and their friendly arguments.

Copper, you see, is a naïve young boy, still adventurous and filled with hope that the world is an awesome place that should be explored. Fred is his slightly grumpier talking dog. He's not sarcastic and mean about it. He's closer to being world-weary, the pessimistic voice borne of experience, who's not afraid to embrace new ideas. More often than not, Copper's point of view wins the day through careful debate and point-making. Fred doesn't hate Copper at all for this. He's busy riding the waves as they come in. In an early page, for example, Fred resents being out on a surfboard in the middle of the water, where he's cold. By the end of the strip, after a successful surf down a large wave, Fred is asking to go back for more. Such a simple story, but Kibuishi tells it well, showing us a story that we can follow, and allowing for a punchline at the end. It's obvious where it's all going to go, but Kibuishi's storytelling tricks -- silent panels, background gags, subtle facial expression shifts, and page layouts -- make it all interesting and new.

The book is presented in full color, and Kibuishi's coloring is unique and bright. I'm not sure how to explain it, but there aren't gradients in the book. He cuts in colors and shades to provide a visually appealing and textured look. The palette shifts from environment to environment (under the water, up in the air, in a bombed out town, exploring a fancy city, etc.), but the colors remain clean, never overwhelming the art, or propping it up.

Even the lettering -- done by hand! -- is well considered. Kibuishi includes it as part of his artwork in the process, and his font design is great. He adds nice thicknesses and angles to letterforms to make them stand out and look different without being hard to read.

The book is in a nice large square format, which works well for the webcomics. It doesn't work quite as well for the "Copper" short stories that are reprinted here from previous "Flight" anthology volumes. Since those are done in a standard comic format ratio, they squish into the middle of the page and wind up looking small. Oddly enough, one story has panels that look like they've been blown up to fit the page, with the accompanying jagged digital edges to Kibuishi's otherwise smooth line. Or maybe that's just a different inking technique? Maybe it's scanned directly from pencils in "Lunch Pack?" I know it's the only story in the book that uses computer lettering, but something else about it doesn't look right.

The book is rounded out by an explanation of Kibuishi's work process, in sequence and with lots of explanations. That kind of thing is great for a kid who's curious about the process, as well as an adult like me who is a Process Junkie.

"Copper" is a great example of a true "All Ages" comic -- one that can be read and enjoyed by imaginative kids, but also appreciated by an adult audience for its wit and art stylings. It's now available at your local comics shop (hopefully), bookstore or on-line vendor. At only $12.99 for 90+ pages, it's a steal.

Bonus Links: You can read the original webcomic here, see an interview with Kibuishi on CBR, and even flash back to my review of Kibuishi's "Daisy Kutter" #1.

Dig deeper into Kibuishi's site and you can see that he offers prints of some of the "Copper" installments at a reasonable price. I'm sorely tempted to find a spot on my wall for one. . .

THE RETURN OF "ONE-LINERS"

Shorter one this week, but I'll be back up to speed next week, with more reviews and (doubtless) more commentary. The great thing about this industry of ours is, no matter how dull a day you may think it is, there's something around the corner to pep things up.

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Tags: kazu kibuishi, pipeline, copper

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