Sunday, May 3, 2009

Toon Books Review: JACK AND THE BOX

Toon Books Official Site

Art Spiegelman, like many artists, has walked the path from angry young shit-disturber to brilliant innovator. Now, with decades under his belt, he steps into the role of family entertainer. Thankfully, unlike other creative geniuses such as Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy, his brand of family entertainment doesn't suck.

His offering from the Toon Books library, JACK AND THE BOX, retains his signature offbeat sensibilities. It's obvious on the first read that JACK owes much to Dr. Seuss's original shit-disturber THE CAT IN THE HAT. In it a young (rabbit) boy's new jack in the box toy turns out to be a wild and mischievous friend. Like Seuss' Cat, the Jack In The Box is a slightly dangerous, but irresistible personality.

The comic is series of four-panel vignettes telling the tale of a boy and his delightfully psychotic toy. Like Spiegelman's earliest comics work, it is all about the allure of recklessness. This makes sense as his own introduction to the medium was E.C. Comics and their many unsavory rip-offs. These were the original bad boys of comic books and they have always informed his work in some fashion. But this isn't just the young Spiegelman looking to provoke shock and outrage. He also follows the premise through to touch on consequence and ultimately responsibility.

So, will this intro to comics have the same impact on kids today that THE VAULT OF HORROR had on little Art all those years ago? My ten year old daughter's reaction while reading it was, "Okay, now that's creepy."

JACK AND THE BOX finds it's own way to be provocative.

Visit the Toon Books site HERE.

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