Cold Cut Distribution's Feature Spotlight #19 - November 1996


Akiko

Publisher:	Sirius Comics
Story & Art:	Mark Crilley	
Cvr Price:	$2.50
Frequency:	Monthly

Storyline

: Fourth grade is much more complicated these days - or at least, it certainly is for Akiko. When I was in fourth grade, I didn't get to meet guys from another planet and have them take me off to their home world to look for their missing heir. But Akiko not only gets to go hunting for a prince (and a prince who seems to have a crush on her, if you ask me), but she gets to lead the expedition, thanks to the king's recommendation. It's a good thing, too - her fellow expeditioners lack the talent for direction she seems to have. As Spuckler the adventurer, Beeba the scholar, Poog the alien, and Gax the robot join her on her quest, she directs their journey and has a lot of fun (and some scary moments, too) along the way.

Writing Review:

Mark manages two of the most difficult feats in writing - first, he writes the most realistic fourth-grader in comics today. Responsible enough to be worried about her geography test, yet still young enough to go fearlessly into the jungle or the ocean, adventuring as matter-of-factly as kids playing "Marco Polo" in their backyard. Second, he writes a book in the same sort of style Disney movies have lately honed to an edge: a fun and adventurous story for kids, yet rich with fun, thrills, and jokes for adults - literally, fun for all ages. Thematically, it feels like a cross of The Wizard of Oz, The Last Starfighter and the "adventure on a distant planet" of Flash Gordon.

Art Review:

How is it possible that an artist like Mark Crilley simply pops up out of seemingly thin air to burst upon the scene with a fully-formed work like Akiko? His rounded, Fisher-Price-like characters are well designed - even Akiko's simply-rendered face manages an astonishing range of emotion. Backgrounds are vivacious and lush, action is exciting and flows well, and use of panels is consistently strong. Thick blacks and neat, clean shading make Akiko one neat package!

Audience:

Although Akiko is probably the best adventure book for younger readers on the market today (yes, even including Archies and Gladstones), don't make the mistake of thinking this book is just for kids - it's a fun adventure for all ages! Try this one out with readers of Skeleton Key and Thieves & Kings especially, as well as those who watch the Mighty Max TV show. Fans of the movie "The Neverending Story" will find a lot to like in Akiko, as will fans (including older fans) of Winsor McKay's classic "Little Nemo" strips (Crilley even has a few wonderful homages to Nemo in his book). Readers of The Wizard of Oz, A Wrinkle In Time or the Ranma 1/2 comics, or anime fans who loved the film "Catnapped" will also simply love Akiko.

If you like Akiko, take a look at:


Pakkins' Land

Publisher:	Tapestry (Caliber Comics)
Story:	Gary & Rhoda Shipman
Art:	Gary Shipman
Cover Price:	$2.95
Frequency:	Bi-monthly

Storyline:

Once upon a time, a young boy named Paul went for a hike in the woods. Finding a tiny trail of blood, Paul followed it, hoping to aid the injured forest creature who had left it - and finds himself promptly lost in a wood that's seeming more and more magical all the time. When he finds the injured bird, who flutters from his hands and transforms into an eagle, he still isn't prepared for the talking lion (who looks more like a chihuahua) and the bear who helps him find some supper. And he really isn't prepared to embark on some silly quest to find a missing king...
 [ panels from Pakkins' Land ]

Writing Review:

A charming fantasy full of childlike wonder, Pakkins' Land is a natural companion to classy fun fables like Akiko and Thieves & Kings. The Shipmans' tale is simpler and less intertwined, with a straightforward plot that hearkens to fairy tales like "Jack & the Beanstalk". This is an attraction for the very young or for parents who want to read this to their children (though the scene with the "dead" bird may be a bit upsetting to very young children), though it may be too simplistic for those looking for a complex or resonating plot. Still, just enough humor and odd situations occur to liven the story, which seems as though it will follow a fairly standard "quest" structure as we follow Paul through his ordeal. Future issues will reveal how involved the plotting and storyline will be, but regardless of complexity, this story will clearly be a fun all-ages fable.

Art Review:

I first saw Pakkins' Land at the APE show in 1995. It looked fabulous, and the Shipmans were hoping to self-publish it shortly thereafter. When I saw them again at the APE in 1996, they had published a number of issues as minicomics - which also looked fabulous, but had the unfortunate problems inherent to the format (copying, poor paper quality, etc). Luckily, Gary had a number of pages of his original art there for me to drool over; also luckily, he signed on with Tapestry at that show, so now everyone gets to experience his wonderful book.

Clean, smooth, flowing lines; lots of white; wide eyes and sparse shading make Pakkins' Land a lovely book to look at - and the art's simplicity also makes it an easy read for the very young. The juxtaposition of the realistically-rendered bear and bird with the more iconic boy provides added depth to the series and also lets Gary do lots of animal drawings, something he clearly enjoys.

Audience:

"There aren't enough comics out there for younger readers," say some shop owners. "Or for the child in all of us," I agree. Luckily, here's one more.

Along with Akiko and Thieves & Kings, Pakkins' Land is among the best straight light fantasy series published today. With story similarities to Alice in Wonderland and L. Frank Baum's Oz books, as well as to Piers Anthony's lighter "Xanth" series and C. S. Lewis' somewhat more spiritual "Narnia Chronicles", readers of all of these fantasy series will want to sample Pakkins' Land as well.

If you like Pakkins' Land, take a look at:


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