Book Reviews: Graphic Novels Falling From the Sky

“Did you call me Cootie Breath or Cootie Brains? Cuz one is a lot worse than the other.”

The Complete Alice in Wonderland
If I need to say more than the title to explain what this is about. . . can’t help ya. This follows the story—both, the sequel is included—very closely; Father William actually stands on his head. (I love that poem.)
So, since most people already know the story, the point of this is the artwork. It’s done in not quite sepia but a lot of brownish shades. Some of the painted highlights include the dormouse, who really should have been a koala, considering how stoned he looks; Alice’s priceless look of surprise when the needles turn to oars; her chase of the little red queen looks marvelous, even if she was dressed like a fire hydrant. . . not Alice, the queen. But my favorite image is a beautifully drawn shot of Alice filling the frame—and the house—holding the tiniest cake on in one upturned finger, looking amazed. She’s drawn sorta anime, though at times I feel like there’s a Russian cast to her.
I’ve always enjoyed that, even though she questions a lot, Alice takes everything at face value. And for those of you who hate the trope, remember that this was the original “It was all a dream” ending.
Page 168 starts the bonus materials, the most important being a piece on why they included the “lost” chapter of “The Wasp and the Wig,” likening it to a director’s cut. There’s a few explanations of panels, and in keeping with the theme of this paragraph I will call them director’s commentary.

Judge Dredd: Mega-City Zero, Volume 1
The seeming precursor to Robocop—both in looks and sense of righteousness; with his black and white approach to justice, he should be thinking more about survival—wakes up to find his city has been transported into either the past or an apocalyptic future or alternative universe or something; never got it.
Having his AI remind him of his last assignment is an excellent way of data dumping, but even with that the story is never above confusing. There are some great moments, like a hilarious and totally sad sendup of internet fads. But after that it disintegrated into unfocused speeches about the nature of freedom. Dredd growls about everyone being on a soapbox; I hope he included the writers. Said writers deserve to be smacked for having puppy-kicking as a thing. And the kid who likes eyes. . .
Brighter colors than I would have expected, but it’s not necessarily sharp, almost watercolor-like.

In the year 2031 a kid in school chased by bullies thinks he turns into a mostly tiger/some human beast. . . but he’s not sure; it’s explained later. Having found out his father’s a mafia boss, he runs away with his equally-semi-tiger bodyguard so he can be trained and then come back to defeat his evil dad.
There’s stuff here that reminds me of Star Wars, particularly where the older generation is teaching the young, but the young is too stubborn to wait until fully trained before jumping into the fray. He gets injured in a fight with a rooster; make your own joke here. The guy from Interpol might be necessary for the plot, but I felt he was way too over-the-top. In a story that makes you wonder who exactly is the bad guy here, this character’s drawn—no pun—a little too obvious, and that’s before the story skips ahead seven years. The protagonist turned out to be a lot more interesting—or at least the story was—as a kid.
Not happy with the final twist.
Nothing to say about the artwork; definitely nothing bad about it, but nothing to make it stand out either.

Paper Girls, Volume 1
After a weird dream, a young girl in late 80s Ohio finds an even weirder reality when she gets saved from a gang of jerks during her early morning paper route by three other female deliverers. Joining up with them immediately, they have run-ins with more gangs until they find some weird object in a basement. . . all before dawn. Then things really get strange, like her being shot by friendly fire and seeing a vision of Reagan; nuff said. There’s an old man wearing a Public Enemy shirt who seems to be responsible for all the shenanigans, commanding some futuristically-draped dragon-riding guys who point staffs and make regular humans go elsewhere. Against them is a group of ninja-dressed badly scarred teens who time travel; instead of a warehouse, they have a whenhouse (best line of the whole book).
Though there’s some good story, and the interactions between the girls are fun, as a whole it feels disjointed, almost as if the authors are making it up as they go along. (There’s only one guy listed as “writer,” so it’s probably not a case of different minds each issue.)
The artwork is kinda rudimentary; I thought the color scheme had to do with the fact it was night, but it continued even when inside.

I Hate Fairyland, Volume 1
To bookend these reviews, here’s an Alice in Wonderland-type story that quickly turns into anything but. A little girl with a vivid fantasy life wants to live in a wonderland, and ends up sent exactly there through a hole in her room that deposits her none-too-gently on concrete. (As the Rush song goes, “Sometimes the angels punish us by answering our prayers.”) Bleeding from her injuries, she wails that she wants to go home, and is given a guide and a map to find how to do that. Then the moon tells us it’s 27 years later, just before she cannons it; while her body hasn’t aged, she’s still lived through everything and has become a psychopathic meanie, for lack of a better term. Eventually she meets a peppy human girl on the same quest as her; it’s a race to the key now, and everyone loves the adorable newcomer who doesn’t kill everyone on sight.
Despite the flimsiness of the quest plot—all of them are just excuses for adventures—there’s quite a few excellent moments. For example, she escapes the king slug—in rapper paraphernalia—the same way Leia escaped from Jabba. (She even mentions where she got the idea, although why a six-year-old would have seen Return of the Jedi. . .) There’s Ice Cream Island, which I had high hopes for, but not much took place there. She drinks some wisher’s beer and turns into a sugar monster. There’s a witch with a turbo-charged broom. And so on.
Like I said, a quest story; the whole reason for its existence is the snark:
“Oops, my bad, innocent old man.”
(Sarcastic at the sky) “Thanks, weather king.” “You’re welcome.”
Her little bug Sancho Panza character has time to build a house—and have a family—before she recovers from a long fall; I thought she might be dead—she grew a green curly beard!—but the book was only halfway through. She looks even deader after her fight with Happy, but just like a cockroach, she can’t seem to be killed.
In the end she can’t get out of her own psychotic way and gets what she deserves. . .
It’s important to take this in the spirit it’s presented, or else it’s simply not gonna work. This is snark taken up to 11; her middle finger gets a lot of play. You have to be in the right frame of mind, and not have any kids around—you’re gonna laugh, and they’re gonna ask you what you’re laughing at, and you can’t tell them—but if this stuff is your thing you’re gonna love this. Just don’t treat this is a how-to. . .
The colors are so bright, so much cotton candy pink, I’m surprised Gert only threw up a few times. . .


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