The talented men and women who draw The Line it is Drawn every week often work on comic book projects, as well. Today, I’ll be reviewing four of them (two in the morning and two later in the afternoon). We conclude with Caanan Grall and Max Overacts. -BC
Max Ovaracts: Hold on to Your Stubs is the first volume of Caanan Grall’s brilliant (and Eisner Award nominated!) comic series about a young boy, Max, who is an actor. It collects the first 140 or so strips in the series, plus loads of extras.
I find it a bit difficult to talk about this book, only in the sense that, come on, y’all have seen Caanan’s work for years now. You know he’s amazing. And I’ve even reviewed Max Overacts in the past, just as a webcomic, and I’ve talked about how great it is. So I think you all get the idea by now that you should definitely pick up Max Overacts if you are a fan of good comics (which I hope you are, reading this here site about comics being good).
However, I will still give it a shot (rather than doing scans of the book, I’m just going to use the original strips).
The book quickly identifies the characters and their personalities in just the first three pages…
Very quickly, Grall delivers what is essentially a fully developed character in Max, the rambunctious, precocious (and yes, overacting) young boy whose antics will undoubtedly charm us the entire book. We also meet Janet, Max’s “leading lady,” a child actress in her own right (who actually works professionally – her mother is an actress, as well). Plus, we meet Max’s ventriloquist dummy as well as his “unplanned” older sister, Andromeda.
In the book, these three strips are followed up by the first of a series of strips unique to the book called Andidistraction, which spotlight Max’s sister, Andromeda. These strips really add a great deal of flavor to the series, as Grall alternates between one-off humor bits starring Andi and extensions of the current plot in the strip, only from Andi’s perspective.
For instance, take this bit from Halloweeen…
An Andistraction strip directly follows it in the book showing more of Andi’s interactions with James (who happens to be the older brother of Janet, by the way).
Early on in the book, the strips tend to be of the one-off variety, with common stories being about Max’s over-imaginative self either getting himself into some mischief or amusing himself in an otherwise boring situation.
Here’s a notable example of the first…
and here’s a notable example of the second…
Max’s relationship with Janet is a major part of the strip, as well. Max adores her and she plays hard to get quite well while still obviously enjoying Max’s company. One of the cutest strips follows Max getting angry when he sees pictures of Janet on vacation hanging out with another boy. He calls her on it and she tells him it was her cousin. Max knows how to apologize in style, though…
As the series goes by, Grall adds more and more characters to Max’s world and develops them well. The more he develops the character, the more that longer form narrative make sense and he ends the volume with a long narrative involving Max landing a role in a high school production of Pinocchio (as the titular character). The drama of putting on the play (especially Max’s first nemesis, the short high school student who normally plays all of the kid parts) and then, in one of the most strongest stories in the entire volume, an extended series of strips on Janet going out with Max’s family to dinner after the final performance of the play. You see, while Max seemingly only has eyes for Janet, there is one girl that has a peculiar hold on his heart, a mysterious girl who showed up at one of Max’s “guerrilla plays” that no one ever attends….
Well, guess who shows up at the dinner and is apparently the daughter of a friend of Max’s mother? Yep, you guessed it. Janet’s reactions in this tension-filled dinner are fascinating. It is one thing to have your main character developed this well, but to have a supporting character given the development that Grall gives Janet is quite something to behold. Really strong work. It makes a lot of sense that Grall ends the volume with this story (well, except for a couple of one-off bits right at the end).
So yeah, Max Overacts is excellent.
Click here to buy the book. It’s $28 with shipping included, but the book is HUGE. 164 pages and the pages are long, so that the strip format does not seem cramped.
Click here to read the more recent strips in the series. As I noted, Grall has been doing longer stories recently and they’ve been a real treat.
If you want to check out Caanan Grall’s Line it is Drawn work, he was one of the original artists on the feature, doing regular work until installment #69. Check out the archive here to see Caanan’s stellar work.
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