See You, Hunter.

*Yeah. I'm at a loss for words otherwise.

*World of Delight: I finally got around to reading the first two issues of “Concrete: The Human Dilemma”, and I liked them quite a bit. I’d always been sort of confused by the many “Concrete” stories and specials and the like, so I started searching around Dark Horse’s site to acclimate myself (the best part about Dark Horse is that they’ve got a database up of pretty much everything they’ve published, going back to “Boris the Bear” #1 in 1986. So I’m poking around, and I notice that they’ve got the solicitations up for the rest of the “Human Dilemma” series. I decide I’d like to see the covers. So I start with issue #6. Bad bad bad bad baaaaad move. Not only is the cover image itself a pretty big spoiler, but the solicitation text blows no less than three upcoming plot twists. I mean, crap; is this the text they used in Previews to sell this thing? I guess it’s sort of my fault for clicking on a link promising info for an upcoming issue, but boy it must have hurt for anyone perusing the big old catalog looking to make sure everything’s coming out on time…


Scurvy Dogs: Rags to Riches

This book is being released on Wednesday of this week. It’s $12.95. It’s a very good deal considering the amount of stuff you’re getting, and I think that established fans of this series (and I know there are quite a few) will want to spend the money to upgrade. There’s been a real effort made to provide extra value to this compilation, beyond merely re-presenting previously published material. And as for new readers, well, suffice to say that if you enjoy gently surreal, heavily pop-culture laden humor, and can tolerate a certain amount of visual roughness, you’ll have a good time.

Scurvy Dogs”, in case you missed the reviews the first time around, was a five-issue series from AIT/Planet Lar, although the first issue was initially self-published by the creators, co-writer Andrew Boyd and artist/letterer/co-writer Ryan Yount, under the auspices of their own company, Admiral Southpaw. The series focuses on the adventures of a quintet of mighty pirates who find themselves constantly caught up in silly adventures, often involving monkeys, hobos, small jobs, and the Allure of Fame. Sometimes there’s two stories in an issue. Sometimes the story spans several issues. Sometimes we get less a story than a grouping of skits dealing with the lives of the cast. But always the point is nothing more than getting some laughs, and laughs are always the trickiest things to predict. Lord knows my own sense of humor isn’t exactly universal.

That admission aside, I’d personally say that the book grows steadily less funny as it moves along, but not due to any sudden loss of skill on the part of the creative team. Rather, the book becomes more and more devoted to (or enmeshed in) pop-culture humor, largely pop-culture of years gone by. You know, “Lancelot Link”, “Battle of the Network Stars”, Menudo, “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century”, etc. The problem is, I don’t particularly like pop-culture focused humor, at least not the brand that presumes that knee-slapping laffs will result by mixing the miscellany of one‘s childhood entertainment with certain dissonant elements (like pirates). So, myself and the book couldn’t help but arrive at an impasse; by issue #5, I was barely cracking a smile, as the whole story revolved around the cast getting mixed into television and advertisement parodies from assorted eras, with various B-level characters and celebrities from across the spectrum of American junk culture popping in because, well, presumably the teaming of Rod Stewart and Dr. Theopolis is just inherently hilarious to some readers. Nothing wrong with that. You might be laughing right now at the mere suggestion; you should check out this book. There were parts that made me chuckle: the old four-leaf clover in the blender gag really does work every time. Oh, and slaying lepers! That’s pretty funny. There’s some good lines too: “I will resist your rocking, like Odysseus resisted the Sirens!” But even a funny line like this is immediately followed by two solid pages of parodies of various and sundry 80’s rock bands, which doesn’t do the trick for me (although there were some decent shitty puns... I always love those).

Mr. Yount’s art gets the point across more often than not. Early scenes suffer a bit from uncertain perspectives, as is noted in the bonus materials (ah, more on those soon). There’s usually very little in the way of backgrounds, just pure white or black. Character art is the focus here, and it’s nice to watch Yount’s figures change slightly over the course of the book, becoming looser and lighter; our pirate crew seems far less solid at the end of the book, and maybe a bit more expressive. This extends to scenery and objects in the book’s world too, however; architecture in particular seems far less defined in later issues than it does earlier on, with exteriors of buildings looking hastily drawn in (although it must be said that the scenery onboard the various pirate ships is always well-rendered). But those character designs are good ones… Blackbeard looks pretty funny just standing around, with his gigantic hat and his beard tied into mighty braids. It’s enough for the purposes of the book, so long as one’s sense of humor won’t be confounded by a lack of masterful draftsmanship (and I doubt anyone‘s will be).

As mixed as my feelings are on the series itself, there’s little doubt that this book’s presentation will appeal to folks who’ve responded better to the content than I. First and foremost, we get full commentary by both creators on every issue, 14 pages worth, all in teeny tiny type. There’s a little too much explaining of simple jokes for my taste, but a lot of background info is offered, including bits on character inspirations, analysis of some of the more obscure references, talk of cut material (including script excerpts!), perceptive pieces of self-criticism, and general horsing around. Also included is a four-page crossover short with Vampirella (also with commentary). There’s ten pages of pin-ups by assorted artists (always good to see Ian Gibson), early character art and sketchbook excerpts, photos from conventions and at home, and an introduction by Adam Beechen, writer of AIT/Planet Lar’s “Hench” and animated cartoons like “Teen Titans” and “The Batman”.

It’s a very nice package. For less than thirteen bucks full retail you get a lot of extra stuff, and it’s largely informative extra stuff that’ll probably enhance your reading experience. It’s a really great deal, even for folks who’ve already bought every issue, and if you think the book will be to your liking it‘s worth taking a chance on this upcoming new comics day.