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 naÃ¯ve 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.