You may or may not have noticed that I'm actually supposed to be posting here. I'm kinda the Halley's Comet of the CSBG crew. I turn up very rarely, there's a brief flurry of excitement and then I vanish for an interminable period of time.

Anyway, one of the reasons for this is that, well, most comics these days just don't light a fire under me. The blog is called 'Comics Should Be Good' after all, and, well, I'm finding that most of what flits under my nose these days is kind of mediocre.

Not bad, per se, just not 'good'.

Which leads us to Jamie Smart and 'Space Raoul'.

Jamie Smart is a plucky British cartoonist most known for 'Bear' a neat little comic which came out in the wake of Jhonen Vasquez' 'Johnny the Homicidal Maniac' when publishers were scrambling for the next thing which they could trademark and then proceed to smear all over clothing, stickers and lunchboxes and flog off to pimply, middle class goth kids at Hot Topic for a vastly inflated price.

Amongst the wave of forgettable detritus, there was something about 'Bear' which made me think it wasn't the usual load of cobbled-together crap trying in vain to replicate the 'kowaii' (cute but scary) work of Japanese artists like Junko Mizuno.

For one thing, it was actually funny, while pretty much everything else could, at best, manage a sort of tired, self referential wink ("Oh, look, it's a cute teddy bear... but it's evil... how potently ironic... oh, I may swoon..."), and on the other hand, it was competently executed.

Which brings us back to 'Space Raoul'.

Space Raoul is a plucky, bold and ever-so-British space hero who travels the galaxy with his trusty pal, Quibble, battling Space Ne'er-do-wells, encountering strange space races and weird space phenomena, and eating cake (possibly some sort of Space cake, but more likely some good, stout-hearted British cake he's packed especially for the journey). He's a short, pinkish-red doggy-looking thing with a bubble helmet, a star on his chest and a pipe.

And he's utterly delightful.

In fact, so euphorically delightful that it took all my efforts to write this review and not just write SPACE RAOUL over and over again in big letters, enthusiastically pounding and flailing my hands, arms, elbows and face into the keyboard.

So yes, the upshot is that, after doing a bunch of 'Space Raoul' pieces for a bunch of people, the kindly folks at Slave Labour Graphics have compiled them into a handy-dandy single-volume thing. At first, it seems rather slight, but one thing with Smart is that he crams the story into every spare corner of his page, and there's quite a bit to read here.

There's some neat subtexts about imperialism, Britishness, the hubris of the middle-class and so forth, but mostly it's jolly all-ages space fun which entertains and amuses without talking down to its audience.

If I had one quibble (besides our hero's trusty co-pilot), it's that, in replicating stuff that originally appeared in British Tabloid-sized comics into a digest-sized tpb, some of the script does tend towards the teeny. But aside from that, it's all jolly and pip-pip and what ho.

Do feel free to 'get amongst it'.

It's the civilised thing to do.

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