Cold Cut Distribution's Feature Spotlight #16 - August 1996
Publisher: Dancing Elephant Press
Story & Art: Paul Grist
Cvr Price: $3.50
Detective Kane is not very popular. A few months ago, he shot his partner
Dennis Harvey in a tense standoff when Kane discovered he was corrupt.
Internal Affairs cleared him, and he is back on the New Eden Police force
after a six month suspension. But the rest of the officers dislike him
("Dennis Harvey had some good friends in this station", they remind him),
some of them intensely.
The Captain has teamed him with a new partner - a young woman named Kate who
is gung-ho in a way Kane can't be anymore. She's new enough not to have
been there when Kane shot Harvey, so the events don't sit as closely with
Meanwhile, the city of New Eden is constantly in trouble of one kind or
another. Whether it's a mad bomber blowing up buildings for ransom money or
a crazed guy in a rabbit suit insisting that you not call him Bugs Bunny,
there's always an adventure or a mystery right around the corner.
The best police comic being published today, bar none. With a somewhat
whimsical air to it, Kane can also bring a grin, even as he goes after mob
boss Oscar Darke. Like the TV show "Picket Fences", it is about serious law
enforcement in unusual times - realistic cops dealing with internal
issues even as they deal with a shill faking a robbery of a safe to "prove
it works" on TV. Excellent pacing, scintillating dialogue, deep
characterization - anyone at all interested in heartfelt emotions during
screwball plot twists needs this book.
Paul Grist lays out the book "like Mazzuchelli", I've read. After thinking
about it, I'd have to agree - thick blacks, stark whites, and incredible use
of shadows lends an amazing air of painstakingly-laid-out minimalism to the
art. People and faces are drawn with a minimum of lines and yet are
extremely expressive and active. Panel layout is so natural you never
notice it, yet so varied as to lead you into action or introspective shots
without a blur.
Detective fiction about realistic detectives - the obvious connection here
would be readers of the Batman books who prefer less superhero and more
action, more characters, and more suspense. Readers of Stray Bullets
(though this follows the law rather than the criminal), viewers of
"Bakersfield P.D." and people who liked "Pulp Fiction", "Get Shorty", and
the "Die Hard" films are also prime suspects - and Kane is a perfect
candidate for a "try before you buy" program, as the one thing stopping
Kane from selling to half of your Batman readers is that
nobody knows about it. Give Kane a chance and watch it sell!
If you like Kane, take a look at:
Publisher: Slave Labor Graphics
Story: J. Torres
Art: Tim Levins
Cover Price: $2.95
In the 90's, Jamie is a guy with not enough money to pay his bills, but his
long-term dreams of being a comic book writer still fill his head, if not
his wallet. He still remembers (and so do we, through many flashbacks) his
teen years when he idolized comics and their writers. His fantasies of
becoming a comic book writer and his memories of being an avid fan keep
haunting him as he struggles to make it in the modern world.
We all remember when we were kids, right? When reading comics was an
excitement like no other - and when we discovered that back issues existed
and could be purchased... wow! Did you ever save up for a mint copy of an
early X-Men issue? I did, and so did J. Torres. You can tell by the tale
in this book - just one of the tales adapted from his diary, his "Copybook".
The nostalgia runs thick in this tale of youthful dreams and modern reality
colliding, and the emotions seep through every word. Funny references are
also dropped in, to everything from "Wayne's World" to The Pursuit of
Happiness. The pacing is occasionally brilliant, occasionally only
acceptable, and Torres needs to work on his transitions between present-day
and the past, and having three characters named Mike doesn't help, but
overall this is a fine work, deserving of a much wider audience than it's
found so far. If you collected comics in the 80's and liked it, why aren't
you reading this book?
Somewhat sketchy but well laid out, Levins almost manages a tricky
situation: drawing the same character only ten years apart. Necessarily
they look very similar, leading the reader to occasionally be confused as to
which time period he is reading about; and in a story which is basically
about nothing more than comics collectors reading and enjoying and
attempting to buy or sell comics, there is very little action, which
necessarily leads to a lot of similarly structured panels (not unlike
Doonesbury before the hiatus).
Some attempts at differentiating the two eras work (having the younger Jamie
in overalls helps), sometimes it's too subtle to catch (it's only on my
third re-reading that I caught the panel gutters - filled with black in the
90's, filled with white in the 80's). Overall, a good job which augments
the story, the driving force of the book.
The Copybook Tales is an unfortunately bland title for what is a
nostalgia-filled journey through youthful comic collecting - readers of
Tales From the Bog should check this puppy out, as well as anyone who
spent the early 80's collecting comics for the sheer pleasure of it. Older
readers and twentysomethings should get a special kick out of the blasts
from the past tossed in for good measure. Hand this over to readers of
Strange Attractors if they like the nostalgic aspects of that retro
series, and people who watched "The Wonder Years" on TV are also a natural
audience. For that matter, why don't you read it yourself? Comic shop
owners and employees should love this one!
If you like The Copybook Tales, take a look at:
Cold Cut Distribution
220 N Main St. - Salinas, CA 93901 - (831) 751-7300