Friday Reviews: Comic Strip Edition

Today we’ve got a couple of comic strip collections, a compilation of classic strips from 50 years of Charles Schulz’s Peanuts, and the second volume of Katie Cook’s charming web-comic, Gronk.

Woodstock: Master of Disguise

Writer and Artist: Charles Schulz

WoodstockCoverI’ve been a lifelong fan of Peanuts and have at different times in my life related to Charlie Brown or Snoopy. Every Christmas my parents give me the next volume in Fantagraphics’ wonderful archive of Peanuts comics (which is nearing the end after over a decade of publishing these volumes). And I’ve bought my share of themed collections focusing on Scouting, Writing, Baseball or specific characters.

Perhaps Snoopy’s expression on the cover says it best about this volume. Woodstock may have earned himself a place on Whoopi Goldberg’s chest (weird intersection of Trek and Peanuts trivia), but he’s better in small doses rather than as the main event.

I like the inclusion of the head beagle strips and the scouting strips, but both of these have a lot more to do with Snoopy than they ever do with Woodstock. We also get pieces of strips that would form the basis of Snoopy Come Home and a lot of hockey and football strips where the joke is usually Woodstock being crushed by the football.

Peanuts is a lot about repetition if you think about it. The best running gags are Charlie Brown losing (almost) every Baseball game, missing the football, Snoopy fighting the Red Baron and getting his every literary work rejected. But collections of those strips show the ways in which Schulz changed the gag every time so even though we knew what was going to happen, the joke was still funny. Woodstock jokes, on the other hand, are really all the same.

The one thing this collection brings out is that while Snoopy loves Woodstock, he doesn’t always like him very much. Play a drinking game with this book and take a drink every time Snoopy says “stupid bird.” You’ll enjoy the book all the more.

The activity section might be okay for kids, but doesn’t add much. This is also a bit nit-picky, but I actually prefer the strips in their original black and white form over any recoloring. The Sunday color is fine, but I like the plain presentation Fantagraphics has chosen over this re-colored collection.

(3 stars | There are a lot of great Peanuts collections out there, but this one is just okay)

Gronk: A Monster’s Story Volume 2

Writer and Artist – Katie Cook

GronkVol2It’s probably best to look at Gronk less as comic strip and more as a poster book with a cute loveable character. There are lot of pages here that would make great posters, coffee mugs, mousepads, etc. There are visual gags of movies, art, and even other comic strips like The Family Circus.

We do get a nice prequel story involving an early intersection between Gronk, Dale and kitteh and there are some recurring gags with Gronk discovering the joys and perils of the iPad that are decently funny.

Again this is cute, funny, geeky and a little sweet book and most pages would be great printed on the side of a coffee mug or as a background. It’s just a shame we get so few of these both on-line and in these collections (less than 60 strips here).

I will say that here re-coloring brings a lot of vibrancy to the art. The web-comic is in black and white and often has a half-finished quality. These collections really make these characters come to life and while this book isn’t very long, you’ll still enjoy it.

(3 stars | Probably more of a 3.5 because of the art and geek parodies)

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