A review a day: <i>Grune</i> and <i>Novasett Island</i>

Two comics for the price of one! Am I mad? Am I? AM I?!?!?!?!?

Usually I like to these one at a time, but both of these books are rather short and they're by the same person, so why not review them together? Why not, indeed? The creator, Zack Giallongo, was nice enough to send these to me, and I'd like to thank him. It's always cool to get something that you would probably have missed.

Let's tackle Grune first, as Giallongo does that solo and it's a slip of a book.

Stylistically, it reminds me a lot of Bone, which may or may not be a good thing. Giallongo's art looks a bit like Jeff Smith's art (which isn't a bad thing, as Smith is a good artist). The story (such as it is; the book is only ten pages long) is a fantasy set (so far) in an idyllic woodland, and while the characters look nothing like the main ones in Bone, it's still got that vibe to it. We see the aftermath of a great battle, and one creature sitting near it - a grune. It's a one-horned, furry thing, and three humans - Rolan, Gilda, and Varli - find it and decide to take it with them. Well, Gilda wants to kill the grune, but as it's just sitting there, not making a noise or doing anything, Rolan decides to see if they can get a reward for it. So off they march. They're attacked by ferocious creatures (which reminded me of the stupid, stupid rat creatures from Bone) but they manage to slaughter them all. That night, Rolan tells them they should make the outpost tomorrow evening, "as long as everything goes smoothly." Yeah, I can't see that happening.

It's not a bad set-up, but it's difficult to really write much about it. Giallongo's art is good, but except for brief peeks into the characters and the fight (which only takes up a few panels but is well done), there's not much going on. Giallongo points out that issue #2 is coming out soon, so there will probably be more to go on then. It's an intriguing start, but it's hard to get any kind of idea about the actual story.

Novasett Island is heftier, with several short stories. A few are drawn by Stephanie Yue, while the others are by Giallongo. In the introduction, Novasett Island is described as a one-time haven for pirates but due to the island's volatile nature, treasure was often lost after it was buried. Now it's a tourist destination that also attracts treasure hunters looking for all the lost booty.

It's also home to non-human sentient creatures, as of our three main characters, two are certainly not human. Sophie, the alpha male of the book (even though she's, you know, a girl) is the human one, while Knodu and Ggy, her two friends, are simply not. No explanation given, and none needed, really. There's also Coover, who's a genius except in social situations. Giallongo has sketches of a few other characters in the back of the book, but those four are the stars of this collection.

Basically, these are stories in which the characters explore the island and introduce us to it. Therefore, we see the circle of the prawn cult and the strange way they are placated; Coover at a science fair; Sophie and Knodu's argument about why one would stay on the island and why one would leave it; a date with Coover (which doesn't go very well); a creepy visit to a cave; and a cute tale about Sophie's pet bird. We also get some text pieces about the island, a bunch of pin-ups by various artists, and a guide to some of the flora and fauna around the island. It's a pretty decent package for eight dollars.

Giallongo shows that he has a good sense of the characters and a fine sense of humor. The stories are charming even when they have a bit of seriousness behind them (as when Sophie talks about leaving the island). And the cave story is downright icky, even though Giallongo doesn't show much. Sophie, Knodu, and Ggy have nice chemistry with each other, which is kind of neat as Giallongo doesn't linger too much on character building - he reveals it nicely, but doesn't force it. Coover's date is a funny story, as he's so earnest but obviously has no clue about what a normal person might like (he wants to take his date to a museum of disease, for instance). Giallongo obviously has thought a great deal about this setting, and therefore the stories feel like they come easily to him (whether they do or not is something only he can answer, of course). The fact that Novasett Island feels like a fully realized place makes the stories work better. Giallongo knows the characters well, too, so he can show them doing things and trust that we'll figure them out as we go along.

We know that he knows more about Sophie, Knodu, Ggy, and Coover (and the others he sketches in the back), so we're willing to read about them without worrying about when we're going to learn more about them.

I'm interested in both these comics, because Giallongo has a nice way of giving us information but also keeping us wanting more. I'm not sure if I can completely recommend Grune because of its brevity, but Giallongo writes that issue #2 will be longer, so it might be smart to order both issues at once (for both, it's $7). Meanwhile, Novasett Island, while feeling less "epic," works better because each story is a quick story, usually with a good punchline. For only $8, it's certainly worth a look. Giallongo is a talented artist and a decent storyteller, so you might want to check out his web sites and see if you'd like what he's offering!

Tomorrow: Well, I'm 99% sure I'm going to be in Los Angeles tomorrow and sans computer access, so probably nothing. Our Dread Lord and Master can get things to post without actually being on a computer, but I can't!

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