The kerfluffle over DC’s Snagglepuss book, which essentially makes the Tennessee Williams comparisons from the original cartoon far more direct, has been bizarre. People are either offended that Snagglepuss, a giant pink cat with a lisp so thick even Family Guy would reject it as cartoonish, is now officially gay, or… they’re extremely upset about the art. But now that Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles it underscores the larger points of the book and how current seemingly distant social issues are even now.
Mark Russell’s script still has Snagglepuss in the closet, living as a successful playwright as the Algonquin Round Table — and New York’s literary scene, in general — is entering an eclipse thanks to the House Un-American Activities Committee. Russell has never been a terribly subtle social satirist, but he’s compensated for it by being extremely funny and sometimes brutally honest, and he spares no punches here. His parody of Williams’ work is a hoot, as is his intercutting of a couple late to a show that’s much different from what we were expecting.
The art team of Mike Feehan, Mark Morales and Paul Mounts have a lot of curveballs to deal with, and mostly hit them. The realistic, crisp art makes the book feel like the social realist stories it’s reflecting. Snagglepuss and his compatriots feel intentionally out of place, and not just because they’re Technicolor talking animals. (Although it raises the question of why they’re not wearing, y’know, pants.) Either way, this strange tribute to ’50s social issues dramas, and the people behind them is one of the reasons to love comics. No other medium could pull this off.
Giant Days #34, BOOM! Studios
John Allison and Max Sarin finally fill in the blanks about one Ed Gemmell, the practical nerdy satellite to the three women who anchor the book. Allison’s story is, as always, deeply human as he delves into the petty heartbreaks that loom so large in our lives, while still being quite funny. But it’s Sarin who pushes the book even further, depicting a pub crawl that gets more woozy as it goes along, with flowing lines and distorted cartooning, all cleverly reinforced by Liz Fleming’s inks. It’s yet another great issue from one of the best comedies on the stands, even if it does end on a worryingly dark note.
Secret Weapons #0, Valiant
Eric Heisserer and Adam Pollina deliver a superb prequel to Valiant’s team book about “scrub” superheroes who turn out to be the real deal in a book that explores the past of Nikki, the girl who can talk to birds. Framed in a relentless layout of panels that stretch across the page, we follow Nikki as she rolls the dice on her future, and loses. Or, at least, that’s what she thinks. This story ranges from the hilarious, namely Nikki discovering she decidedly lacks healing powers, to the heartbreaking, where her bird friends convince her not to go down a final path, and it’s a good reminder of how great this book is.
Rogue & Gambit #1, Marvel
Kelly Thompson and Pere Perez tackle Marvel’s beloved couple who, well, they’re not coupling so much, these days, now that Rogue’s skin-to-skin lifeforce stealing has returned. Not that Gambit cares, because when has he ever cared? But while they’re on a break, naturally they’re thrown together in an island paradise to solve a problem of mysteriously vanishing mutants. It’s a breezy book that doesn’t take itself, or its central romantic conflict, too seriously, but manages to give its couple a bit more depth than just their relationship.
Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini #2, Hard Case Crime
Cynthia Von Buhler’s vivid art and love of ’20s mysteries make this book, about a bored secretary swept up in international intrigue and seducing Houdini, among others, a fascinating read. But the big attraction is still Von Buhler’s art, which feels like a mix of stained glass and woodcut prints. There’s simply nothing quite like it, and the rich imagery alone makes this a must read.