Relatable Urchins: Nancy by Olivia Jaimes

Sluggo is Lit

Nancy by Olivia Jaimes

Published: October 1st, 2019
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Pub
Genre(s): Comics
Format: Hardcover
Length: 144 pages

I’ve never read any of the classic Nancy comics, but her look is iconic. I feel like I could identify a Nancy comic from across the room by the shape of Nancy’s head alone. The fact that those comics were ubiquitous enough to become iconic but passé enough that I’d never read any of them is a fascinating contradiction.

Nancy is one of a handful of undead syndicated comics, kept running by a series of artists after the original artist died. It’s the sort of thing that newspapers carry by default for the sort of people who still get newspapers and read the comics section. That’s why the handoff to Olivia Jaimes was such a shock to the system; after decades of comfortable, predictable irrelevancy, Nancy was suddenly reentering the pop culture discussion and getting read and shared by young people.

One of the most interesting things about Jaimes is that she wanted to bring Nancy back to her original spirit while updating the trappings of the strip for modern times. Her predecessor had turned Nancy into a parade of cutesiness and made the strip toothless and unfunny. Jaimes’ vision of Nancy was as a stubborn little girl who is always scheming, in a strip packed full of absurd jokes that sometimes get a little meta.

The most famous Nancy image from Jaimes’ reign so far, “Sluggo is Lit“, is a meta joke about the cartoonist not wanting to do a strip and providing previews of upcoming stories, but it’s also a poke at the sort of people upset that Jaimes is updating Nancy with modern sensibilities. The only reason that anyone is talking about Nancy comics in 2019 is because Jaimes made them resonant for our times.

This collection includes strips from Jaimes’ first year of running Nancy. It has several laugh out loud moments throughout, and I find myself wanting to read more of the daily strip. There isn’t an overarching storyline to the collection. Instead, the strips are mostly just episodic hi-jinks or one-off jokes. Nancy does slowly but surely learn more about building robots in her robotics club, but that’s more about the comedic potential of Nancy building and controlling something mechanical.

If you’re looking for a good laugh from a strip that feels “relatable” without pandering, then you should definitely check out Olivia Jaimes’ Nancy.

REALLY LIKED IT

Full disclosure: I received a free review copy of this book from NetGalley.

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Resting Witch Face: The Babysitters Coven by Kate Williams

The Babysitters Coven - Feature

The Babysitters CovenThe Babysitters Coven by Kate Williams

Published: September 17, 2019
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Genre(s): Fantasy, Young Adult
Format: eBook
Length: 368 pages

I wanted to like The Babysitters Coven. It has a fantastic, eye-catching cover with an illustration of a badass girl facing down some presumably nefarious multicolored clouds. I am always a sucker for a good cover design, so it breaks my heart when the book doesn’t live up to the cover.

The elevator pitch for The Babysitters Coven is The Babysitters Club meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I’ve never read The Babysitters Club, but I feel like you don’t have to read those books to understand what they’re about. Buffy, though, is something that I obsessed over to the point of distraction a few years ago, and I’m always game for stories that play around with those tropes.

The book starts off well enough. The narrator, Esme, is a snarky misfit of a girl who meticulously plans and documents her daily outfits, curating clothes along thematic or referential lines. She runs a local babysitters club with her best friend Janis, another fashion plate. She lives with her dad and a flatulent dog named Pig, and the only real black spot on her life is the fact that her mom is almost catatonic and lives in a mental institution. The snarky narrator is a stock character in YA fiction, but Esme lands a few solid laugh lines early in the book and I highlighted one or two passages.

Esme’s life is fairly normal until the day that someone tries to kidnap one of her babysitting charges. If that wasn’t enough to freak her out, Esme starts to realize that she might be able to move things with her mind. Everything comes to a head when a mysterious girl named Cassandra asks to join the babysitters club and Esme finds out that she might not be the only one experiencing unexplained supernatural events. Further complicating matters is Cassandra’s smoking hot older brother, Dion.

I started reading this book on May 10th, 2019 and didn’t finish it until August 21st, 2019. That’s a good three months and change. In the intervening time, I finished nineteen(!) other books. For whatever reason, I liked the book enough to want to keep reading, but I never seemed to make much progress until the last week or so when I decided it was time to power through and finish it. That said, when I finally got into a rhythm reading the book, I liked it less and less.

One of the biggest problems with The Babysitters Coven is that the pacing is deadly dull. After Esme and Cassandra discover their shared supernatural experiences, they noodle around without any clear goal for more than half of the book. The discover a written guide to basic magical powers, but they don’t receive an explanation for their abilities and responsibilities until past the halfway point.

When Esme and Cassandra finally meet someone willing to give them some guidance, their new mentor mostly serves as an infodump who speaks in cheesy jargon before disappearing for the rest of the story. The magic system seems ill-defined and without any real weight or consequences, but after the characters play with magic early in the book, they neglect to use any of their more complex powers during climactic scenes.

Williams jams most of the plot and action into the last quarter of the book, where everything falls apart and then resolves itself in short order. Esme and Cassandra don’t receive much in the way of training or information before they face a more serious threat, and then everything is neatly wrapped up in only a handful of pages.

To return to the subject of the elevator pitch, The Babysitters Coven is fully aware of its pop culture precedents. The Babysitters Club and Buffy are both name-dropped in the story, among other pop culture, as if lampshading the shared tropes will make it more acceptable.

I think it’s an interesting choice when speculative fiction interacts with some version of our real world via pop culture, but it has to be skillfully done so that the author is interrogating those tropes instead of just cataloging them. I’m sad to say that The Babysitters Coven is not that skillful.

DISLIKED IT

Full disclosure: I received a free review copy of this book from NetGalley.

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The Name of the Game: Cryptofauna by Patrick Canning

CryptofaunaCryptofauna by Patrick Canning

Published: January 23, 2019
Publisher: Patrick Canning
Genre(s): Humor, Fantasy
Format: Audiobook
Length: 9 hrs and 17 mins

Cryptofauna is an entertaining book that runs on pure momentum. The sheer volume of absurdity paired with the author’s constant digressions and convoluted wordplay keeps things humming along while the mysterious nature of the game at the center of the book keeps you hooked until the end.

Reading this felt like strapping myself to a narrative rocket with no time to stop and think about the whys and hows of it all. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I think it could get a bit exhausting if the book was too much longer.

Cryptofauna is about a suicidal janitor named Jim, stopped from killing himself and recruited into the titular game by a mysterious older gentleman named Ozymandias (Oz for short) who lives in the mental institution slash retirement home where Jim works.

Oz doesn’t explain much to Jim before setting him off on a series of three tasks – his initiation as an “operator” in Cryptofauna. Jim meets a lot of colorful characters and ends up in a series of bizarre or distressing situations that always feel playfully absurd even when they are also deadly serious, and the book carries us along his journey.

Cryptofauna the game is never explained in much detail. We get the broad strokes, i.e. that it involves sets of operators battling each other over the course of their artificially extended lives to either improve or undermine the state of the world. The actual details of what that means in practice are vague, probably because it’s funnier that way. I have mixed feelings about this if only because the whole thing feels a bit hand-wavy; the silliness and humor are clearly the point, so the rules don’t matter.

Also, the book spends most of its length focused on Jim completing the seemingly random tasks that serve as his initiation. His assigned rival doesn’t play by the rules, so we don’t get to spend much time with Jim as a practicing operator. Jim’s tasks sort of make sense in a macro way while also feeling arbitrary for the sake of comedy.

There is a scene late in the book where Jim and his allies destroy a sinister boarding school, but instead of dramatizing the action, Canning summarizes it in a few non-specific sentences and explains that it was a battle for the ages. Again, this is presumably meant to be a joke, but it felt more like a placeholder.

I did enjoy this book, and I’d probably be up for reading another by Canning, but I think I would enjoy it more if it balanced humor with a slightly more grounded narrative.

LIKED IT

Full disclosure: I received a free review copy of this book from the author.

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More Than Wordsmiths: Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett

Foundryside cover detail

Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett

Published: August 21st, 2018
Publisher: Random House Audio
Genre(s): Fantasy, Heist, Adventure
Format: Audiobook
Length: 19 hrs and 34 mins

Golems from Jewish folklore have always fascinated me, with their heads full of instructions written on a life-giving scroll. A golem is both the creation myth in miniature and a way to codify magic, a sort of early computer programming where the processors are clay giants. It’s strangely comforting to imagine that human beings could control the world in such a fashion, while also terrifying to imagine the many ways it could go wrong.

In Foundryside, Robert Jackson Bennett takes some of those basic elements and introduces a world where craftsmen use the art of scriving to write a reality-controlling language on inanimate objects and give them a form of consciousness; everything in creation is nothing more than a golem waiting for its instructions. Then, he imagines all of the ways that this power could and would go sickeningly, catastrophically, heartbreakingly wrong.

Sancia is a thief, and a damn good one, all thanks to her ability to touch any object and understand how it works. When she touches an object, understands everything about it, which comes in handy when she needs to pick a lock or avoid a trap, but makes it hard to focus when she has to tune out her own clothes.

When the book opens, Sancia is about to start a seemingly mundane job for a mysterious client: steal a small wooden box from the waterfront and deliver it unopened, no questions asked. As you might imagine, the heist goes catastrophically wrong, and Sancia decides she needs to know what she went to all that trouble to get.

Inside the box, she discovers a bizarre scrived key that can open any lock and that also happens to speak in a snarky voice that she can hear in her head. Sancia quickly realizes that she is in deep shit with any number of people who want to kill her, and she sets about trying to find a way to survive.

This wouldn’t be a book about a thief if there wasn’t eventually a bigger, more dangerous heist in the cards. As Sancia comes to understand the true stakes of her situation, she slowly but surely builds out a crew of friends and allies while Jackson Bennett unpacks her history and reveals the horrors of her former life.

Meticulous worldbuilding always feels like the “fun” of an epic fantasy novels, the part of the book that the author obsessed over, sometimes to the detriment of the story. Jackson Bennett’s worldbuilding is fun, but scriving is also the rotten core at the heart of Foundryside.

Sancia’s world and its wonders exist only because of atrocities that seem like ancient history but that happened not so long ago. The worst part is the revelation that the modern-day scrivers only understand a tiny fraction of the language of their ancestors, and all the power will go to the first scriver who puts enough pieces of the language together to remake the world in their image.

Foundryside is the first of Jackson Bennett’s novels that I’ve read. I had heard endless praise for his Divine Cities trilogy, and I’m sure I’ll read it before too much longer, but for whatever reason, I was more drawn to Foundryside’s fascinating premise and high-stakes magical heists. Highly recommended.

LOVED IT

Full disclosure: I received a free review copy of this book from NetGalley, but I listened to the audiobook from Audible.

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The Perfect Do-Over: Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore

Reincarnation Blues coverReincarnation Blues by Michael Poore

Published: August 22nd, 2017
Publisher: Random House Audio
Genre(s): Science Fiction, Fantasy
Format: Audiobook
Length: 13 hrs and 3 mins

In Reincarnation Blues, Milo is the ultimate slacker. He’s lived thousands of lives, but he still hasn’t reached perfection. Instead, he just wants to spend his time in the afterlife with his girlfriend, Susie, who also happens to be one of the incarnations of death. They’ve been together for more than eight thousand years, give or take, and Milo’s primary goal in the afterlife is avoiding transcending to the oversoul so that he can spend eternity watching TV on a couch with Susie.

Things get complicated, as they often do, when Mama and Nan, the caretakers of the afterlife, explain to him that he is about to run out of lives. Every soul gets no more than ten thousand reincarnations, and he’s down to his last five. If he can’t reach perfection and join the oversoul, Mama and Nan will push him off a floating sidewalk into nothingness and oblivion.

Milo thought that all he needed to do was be a wise man, which is why he’d spent his most recent life dispensing wisdom from fishing boat, but it turns out that perfection isn’t that simple. Part of the problem is that every life he lives feels more like killing time until he dies and gets to go back to Susie. Even still, Mama and Nan’s warning scares him into action, and he decides that he’ll do anything he can to reach perfection and avoid dissolving into nothingness.

The conceit of this book means that we follow Milo over the course of a dozen or so lives, each stranger than the last. It’s a bit like reading a collection of short stories with a through-line and common main character. The tone of the book is drily funny throughout, which is helpful because several of Milo’s lives are bleak or downright horrifying.

I will say that there is a point about halfway through the book where it almost lost me. Milo reincarnates somewhere far in the future as a young man with a promising future, but he is falsely accused of rape and sent to a nightmarish prison where the other prisoners rape and torture him.

If the trope of a false rape accusation wasn’t bad enough, the sheer unpleasantness of Milo’s life in prison started to drag the book down for me. However, I hung in to see how things played out, and I’m glad I did, because the end of the chapter redeemed itself. That said, several of Milo’s lives do happen in dystopias, so don’t go into this book expecting a happy time.

Reincarnation Blues is hilarious, moving, shocking and occasionally disturbing. The result is a wonderful coming-of-age story if those can happen to someone after they’ve lived close to ten thousand lives. Maybe a coming-to-wisdom story? Highly recommended.

LOVED IT

Full disclosure: I received a free review copy of this book from NetGalley, but I listened to the audiobook from the library.

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A Detailed Mirage: Fata Morgana by Steven R. Boyett and Ken Mitchroney

Fata Morgana by Steven R. Boyett and Ken Mitchroney

Published: June 13, 2017
Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Genre(s): Adventure, War, Science Fiction
Format: Audiobook
Length: 12 hrs and 9 mins

I think what drew me to Fata Morgana was the promise of an old-fashioned adventure with a bit of romance: a WW2 bomber plane flies through a portal to another world and the crew has to learn how to deal with extreme culture shock while their captain falls in love with a mysterious woman. However, I wasn’t expecting that it would also include an obsessive attention to detail about the intricacies of flying and crewing a bomber.

Fata Morgana does deliver on that initial promise of adventure, but I have to admit that it required a bit of patience on my part to get invested in the story. I don’t generally enjoy it when an author has clearly gone out of their way to get every little detail right and wants to make for damn sure that you know about it. If you want to read an exhaustive catalog of the US Army Air Force bomber crew experience during WW2, you’ll probably love this book, but if you aren’t into that level of minutiae, you might have to give it some room to grow on you.

It doesn’t help that the characters are all fairly one-dimensional archetypes and they never rise above their first impressions. They wisecrack, they make earnest speeches, they sacrifice for the good of the crew, they’re generally stand-up guys. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, per se, because the story well-executed and there isn’t a false note throughout, but I can barely remember any of their names.

There is one interesting sequence late in the book where reality comes unstuck and things get a little surreal, but it goes on for long enough that it started feeling repetitive. The best parts of the book are when the crew has to do their job and fight back against their enemies, be they Nazis or otherwise. These sequences are thrilling and evocative, and are part of what brought the book home for me. There are a few action sequences full of heart-pounding moments and thrills, especially late in the book.

I did like Fata Morgana, but it feels like this review landed a bit more on the negative side than I intended. I think this a book for a certain type of reader laser-focused on verisimilitude, even in their science fiction. I don’t generally fall into that category, but I can still appreciate a story well-told.

REALLY LIKED IT

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10 PRINT “Heart of Code: The Impossible Fortress”

The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak

Published: February 7th, 2017
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Genre(s): Young Adult, Fiction, Coming-of-age
Format: Audiobook
Length: 7 hrs and 23 mins

The Impossible Fortress hits the exact right notes of eighties nostalgia without turning into a catalog of bygone pop culture. It definitely opened a flood of memories for me. I wasn’t a teenager in 1987, but I did spend my childhood teaching myself BASIC on my Apple IIGS and keying in machine language programs printed in the backs of my dad’s computer magazines.

Billy, Alf and Clark just want to see Vanna White in the May 1987 issue of Playboy, and they’ll try just about any harebrained scheme to get it. When they go into a local typewriter repair store and try to convince the owner that they look like serious businessmen who are definitely old enough to buy it, Billy meets Mary, an overweight social outcast who not only shares his love of computer programming but also his interest in making games, not to mention the fact that she has talent to spare.

Mary tells Billy about a contest judged by their personal game design hero, and it isn’t long before they’re heads-down, working feverishly to finish the titular game – an unfinished, unpolished concept created by Billy in his free time – all while Alf and Clark think he’s working a scam to get the Playboy.

The characters are so sharply drawn that they leap off the page. Rekaluk makes them both relatable and unique with only a few key details as well as a strong sense of the time and place. I fell in love with these characters, rooting for them to figure things out and make something out of themselves.

That’s why I was especially invested when the book took a turn for the dramatic and the stakes became much higher. Suddenly The Impossible Fortress wasn’t just a teenage sex comedy filled to the brim with programming nostalgia; it was also a story about how one wrong choice can ruin your life and how easy it is to watch your dreams slip through your hands. When things started going south for Billy, my stomach dropped, and I didn’t want to stop reading.

In fact, I listened to most of this book in one long sitting while I cleaned and packed for my holiday travel. I rarely get the chance to listen for such a long, uninterrupted period, so it’s especially nice to find a book compelling enough to warrant the attention. I highly recommend The Impossible Fortress, and can’t wait to read Jason Rekaluk’s follow-up, whatever it might be.

LOVED IT

Full disclosure: I received a free review copy of this book from NetGalley, but I listened to the audiobook version instead.

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The Girl Who Wasn’t: LIFEL1K3 by Jay Kristoff

LIFEL1K3 by Jay Kristoff

Published: May 29th 2018
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Genre(s): Young Adult, Science Fiction
Format: eBook
Length: 402 pages

LIFEL1K3 is the rare book that I mostly enjoyed until the end soured me on the whole thing. It’s a mash-up of a lot of genres and tropes, which gives it a certain amount of madcap charm, but it squanders that good will with some draggy pacing, an overload of teenage angst, and a final twist that feels like a gotcha moment designed only for shock value. It’s also overstuffed with plot and world-building, so it’s almost impossible to summarize succinctly.

When you live in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, you have to make ends meet in whatever way possible. Eve builds and pilots homegrown battle-bots from spare parts and pits them against challengers in gladiator battles with the help of her trusty little robot, Cricket, and her best friend, Lemon Fresh. She has a cybernetic eye and a “memdrive” installed in her brain to help her remember her past life, cut short when she was shot and left for dead.

When the book opens, she’s about to fight a malfunctioning corporate bot to get medicine for her ailing grandfather, Silas. The battle goes south, but she’s saved at the last minute when she unleashes some kind of telekinetic power that fries the malfunctioning bot.

Only problem is, gladiator battles are broadcast throughout the local area, and her performance brings her to the attention of some unsavory types, including a religious sect who kill “deviates” on sight and a corporate bounty hunter who wants to capture her for nefarious purposes.

Lucky for her, she’s saved by a beautiful “lifelike” robot named Ezekiel, designed to resemble a handsome young man with super-strength, who she salvaged when his ship crashed nearby. When they try to make their getaway, another lifelike named Faith captures her grandfather, so Eve and her friends have to save him while also running from the bounty hunter hot on their tails. Complicating things is the fact that Ezekiel and Faith both seem to recognize her and call her by another name, Ana.

Now, it’s kind of hard to explain my criticisms of the book without spoilers, so I’m going to warn you now that the rest of this review will be full of them. When Faith damages Eve’s memdrive in a fight, Eve starts having flashes of another life different from the hardscrabble one she thinks she knows. It turns out that Eve isn’t who she thinks she is, which becomes a running theme.

Eve begins remembering her life as Ana, who lived in a corporate tower with her father, the inventor of the lifelikes. She knows the lifelikes and has a shared, tragic history with them! Also, her grandfather isn’t her grandfather. Instead, he’s an engineer who gave her fake memories so that she could have a fresh start.

Ezekiel was the boy of her dreams, Faith was her best friend, and the lifelikes (except possibly Ezekiel) betrayed her family and killed them in a revolution. The angst and the drama build as Eve tries to reconcile her identities and histories, deal with her buried feelings for Ezekiel, and fumes about people lying to her.

You might think that everything I’ve summarized up above is more than enough for one book, and you’d be right. However, Kristoff still has a few twists left up his sleeve. The first few twists just stir up more drama and angst, but the final twist is what soured me on the book.

It turns out that Eve isn’t even the real Ana – she’s secretly a lifelike designed to think she was Ana. After she was shot, Silas installed the memdrive to give her a fresh start as someone new. This revelation puts her over the edge, and she pushes her friends away and slides into apparent villainy in the final sentence of the book.

By that point, I’d already lost a little bit of patience with the number of plot twists and the angsty in-fighting characters, but I wouldn’t have minded the final twist so much if Eve’s decision was less black-and-white. If she’d gone out into the world to find herself with mysterious motivations, I’d at least want to find out more about who she decides to become. Instead, she seeks out another lifelike with clearly villainous motivations and tells him that they have a lot of work to do.

It felt like Kristoff was trying to force Eve’s decision to BE EVIL, and it made me not care about her journey. LIFEL1K3 was a bit of an exhausting read thanks to its everything-plus-the-kitchen-sink storytelling, but that final twist just felt like it sold out the main character for a cheap shock.

DISLIKED IT

Full disclosure: I received a free review copy of this book from Net Galley.

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Devil Music: We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix

We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix

Published: September 18th 2018
Publisher: Quirk Books
Genre(s): Horror, Rock and Roll
Format: E-Book
Length: 336 pages

We Sold Our Souls is sort of like a heavy metal concept album in novel form, but that doesn’t mean it’s the kind of slapdash narrative you would normally find on a long-player. Instead, it’s a propulsive read that rides on the momentum of a lost album full of revolutionary rock songs.

The author of that lost album, Kris Pulaski, is a washed-up former rock guitarist riding the desk at a Best Western. She’s stuck in that customer-service wasteland because Terry Hunt, the lead singer of her old band, Dürt Würk, sold her out, stole her music, and sued her into oblivion. It doesn’t help that the rest of the band hates her because of something terrible she did on “contract night” – the night the band fell apart in spectacular fashion.

When Kris sees a billboard for Koffin, Terry’s sell-out cash-grab nu metal band formed in the ashes of Dürt Würk, she’s at absolute rock bottom. She’s broke, friendless and soon-to-be homeless after her brother kicks her out of her dead mother’s house.

The billboard is the catalyst that sets off a bottomless store of anger she’d kept tamped deep down inside. She decides that it’s time to confront the former members of Dürt Würk and ask them why the events of contract night don’t line up in her memory.

This is a horror novel called We Sold Our Souls, though, so I’m sure it isn’t surprising to learn that something bizarre is going on behind the scenes and Kris gets caught up in its wake as soon as she gets back in touch with her old band.

I was so caught up in this book that I read the last 2/3rds in one marathon sitting, which I think is a pretty resounding endorsement. There are also two harrowing set-pieces that kept me on the edge of my seat and wincing.

I’ve read a few of Grady Hendrix’s novels now, and although this one isn’t as good as My Best Friend’s Exorcism, it delivers some solid scares while also painting a compelling picture of how music can save your life.

REALLY LIKED IT

Full disclosure: I received a free review copy of this book from NetGalley.

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Modernized Space Girl: Barbarella, Volume 1

Barbarella, Volume 1Barbarella, Volume 1: Red Hot Gospel

Written by: Mike Carey
Art by: Kenan Yar, Jorge Fornés
Published: October 10th, 2018
Publisher: Dynamite
Genre(s): Science Fiction, Graphic Novel
Format: E-Book
Length: 126 pages

First, some caveats about this review of the new Barbarella comic written by Mike Carey: I’ve never seen the Jane Fonda movie, so I watched the trailer to get a feel for it because it felt like a necessary entry point.

I also read the first volume of the classic comics by Jean-Claude Forest so that I’d have a baseline to compare against the rebooted series. From a writing standpoint, I’d say that the two versions of Barbarella are on close to equal footing, but the art in the modern version just does not do the character justice.

Forest draws the classic 60s version in black and white with an almost sketch-like quality to the art. The suggestive lines are still evocative even if the style is a little dated. It might be interesting to read a remastered version with full-color art as long as it didn’t lose the style of the original. I think I would have preferred that over the rebooted version, or at least a new comic that more closely follows the classic style.

The first volume of the Mike Carey version consists of a three-issue arc drawn by the series artist, Kenan Yar, and a stand-alone drawn by Jorge Fornés. Both stories start with Barbarella’s ship breaking down, which I’m guessing is a running joke from the movie.

In the longer story, Barbarella crash-lands in the middle of a rebellion on a repressive religious planet where the church removes everyone’s genitalia to prevent them from enjoying sex (because pleasure is a temptation.) Naturally, Barbarella considers this a horrifying injustice and does everything she can to fight the church, stopping only at murder. The story is a bit forgettable. It doesn’t help that Barbarella isn’t driving the plot for most of the arc.

I’m also not a fan of Kenyan Yar’s art, which doesn’t capture the look of the character. The perspectives are oftentimes awkward, and Barbarella herself doesn’t have the cool elegance of the original. It’s a shame, because the cover art is uniformly great. The covers made me wish for an arc drawn by one of those artists.

The art for the standalone story was a much better fit for Barbarella’s style and personality. That story follows her as she books passage on a ship towing three bespoke planets to their destinations. When someone sabotages one of the planets, the story turns into a spin on an old-fashioned mystery. I liked it more than the longer arc, but it felt comparatively slight and a bit rushed.

I’m not sure if I’ll read more Barbarella. This volume was a bit shallow, and I don’t think I’ll come around on Yar’s art. I still might watch the movie, though, even if it is super-cheesy and somehow rated PG despite its reputation for innuendo.

LIKED IT

Full disclosure: I received a free review copy of this book from NetGalley.

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