Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Summer Reading Assignment

Alice Cooper says school's out forever and it's time to kick back and read some comic books.

How big of a misanthropic nerd am I? Such a nerd that some of my best childhood memories are of reading comic books in the Summer. And I don't just mean the general idea of it, I mean specific vivid memories such as enjoying WEST COAST AVENGERS #2 one warm June day with a glass of Lipton's instant iced tea. Or sitting on the back porch with an oversized hardbound volume of Gladstone's THE COMPLETE TALES FROM THE CRYPT.

So let's round up a few choice selections for these crazy kids today. What follows is a little bit of the old and some new releases, just to mix things up. I tried to find some fairly dense material that can withstand rereadings. These are also all available in soft cover or disposable floppy issues. No unwieldy hardcover collectors editions here. These books are meant to travel in a beach bag or sit poolside or get dragged into the woods. These are Summer books and will therefore receive some abuse. By September you'll know if your kids enjoyed them by the beaten spines and creased covers.

Official Site

Kean Soo's whimsical tale of a girl and her dragony friend concludes in the second volume of the graphic novel series. From the official site:

This second book picks up immediately where the first book ended, and will bring the story of Portia, Jason and Jellaby to a satisfying conclusion. I had always intended for Jellaby to be read as a single 300-page story, so I would suggest you dust off your copy of the first book and give it a re-read before reading Monster in the City!

Little Brown Young Readers Publishing

If adventure has a name, it must be Tintin. Grab a few of these oversized editions for rip roarin' good time. Not only are they long engrossing tales, but you can spend just as long rereading each page just to take in Herge's delicately detailed renderings. A kid can spend an entire day getting lost in his masterful compositions. Be sure to include a few of the Captain Haddock stories for the full blistering-barnacles experience.

Dark Horse Comics

Dark Horse has been doing the world a wonderful service by reprinting these classic comics from the fabled land of 1950's suburbia. Did such a world really once exist? A land where kids wander the town unsupervised all day, getting into shenanigans and kerfuffles? The LITTLE LULU titles still endure because they pepper this Americana setting with plenty of sardonic wit. Not to mention the fact that solid, professional comics storytelling never goes out of style. This latest reprint trade of John Stanley/Irving Tripp era stories is in glorious color, the perfect outdoor read on a sunny day.

Top Shelf Productions

This is probably the closest thing to a dramatic selection (even if it does star talking animals). It's a funny and poignant story of juveniles exploring art and relationships and ambiguous lake monsters. The story pulls you in immediately as it casually follows it's characters along their days. It's thoroughly quirky and just as thoroughly engrossing. If I have one kvetch it's only that the art could do with a splash of color. I love black and white and clean line work is full of personality, but even a monochromatic color scheme could take this book from looking nice to looking exceptional. Regardless, older kids will enjoy getting to know Turnip the elephant and all of her friends.

Marvel Comics

A good limited series is always a fun way to mark the beginning and end of summer. Unfortunately, the Big Two have taken the notion of fun out of this equation. The self contained miniseries is now a decidedly unfun cataclysmic crossover event full of sturm und drang that doesn't actually end so much as fizzle out, leaving a lingering sense of dissatisfaction and self loathing. Luckily this year Lockjaw and the Thunder Frog have slipped in under the radar with the true must-read Summer event of the year. The first issue is already out and it's a fun story that avoids being overly silly. It's surely tempting to make a self consciously camp story about superpowered animals (and a dragon), but PET AVENGERS takes itself half seriously. Really, that's the only way to make such a concept work.

DC Comics

As far as self-contained story comics go, the latest Batman spin-off is your best bet. Thanks to it's assured consistent monthly quality, this is the ideal series when you need to grab a random comic book or two on a rainy day. Each issue offers a fun guest appearance by another DC hero and the stories are dense enough to offer more than a mere three-minute trifle of a book (TINY TITANS, I'm looking in your direction).

Eleanor Davis
James Kochalka

I know, I know - I said no hard covered books. But I can't resist. When you need something to read to the little ones, your best bet is STINKY and the JOHNNY BOO books. One is about playing in the woods with a monster, the others are about watching the stars and eating ice cream. You can't get more Summery than that. How much more summery can that be? The answer is none. None more Summery. You can read my reviews HERE and HERE to get the full picture.


  1. enjoying WEST COAST AVENGERS #2

    have those words ever been said before, in that order?

  2. But we're talking about the first appearance of the zip-a-tone supervillain THE BLANK!