This Week’s Comics: Robots in Something Like Love, William Shakespeare Is a Secret Crimefighter, and Cats!!!!

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Every Christmas, it seems, someone decides that they’re the first to come up with the idea “what if Santa … was edgy?” So we get Santa Claus wearing a trench coat and firing guns sideways, or elves knocking over a bank, or Krampus building a meth lab in a trailer. (Remind me to tell you the story someday of when I was a PA at an animation company, fifteenish years ago, and the bosses were trying to get the money together for a feature film that included Christmas goblins. It did not pan out, but oh what might have been.)

Generally speaking, the premise “something cute but not cute” isn’t enough to sustain much of anything — it needs a spark to truly justify its existence, which is why Grant Morrison’s Klaus series, now about 5 years old, was such a hit when it came out and deserves an annual revisit. Imagine Saint Nick, but as a medieval super-vigilante with a wolf companion and a sword that kills fascists. Pleasantly enough, the series manages to measure up to its rich premise with violent adventure and moments of tender reflection. It’s been two years since the last addition to the Klaus series. But like Santa himself, the work is timeless.

Otherwise, it’s a fairly quiet week for new releases as you might expect. But there’s a handful of treasures to be found, as well as some books I missed when they initially appeared. Thanks as always to Phoenix for the recommendations!

ROBO SAPIENS

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If you hand me a book and say “this is a quiet, melancholy contemplation of the unfulfilled dreams of robots,” I will probably reply with an uncomfortable look as I frantically attempt to come up with a reason not to read it, because that sounds like not my thing at ALL. Or at least I would have prior to reading Robo Sapiens, which reeled me in despite the ponderous premise. (And the challenge of remembering to read manga right-to-left.) It is many years in the future, and humans live in relative contentment alongside humanish robots. The robots are content as well, because they do not seem to have been made with the capability to experience any other emotion. But their lives are not as placid as their demeanors might suggest: There are star-crossed robot lovers, malfunctions, enslavement, disasters, wars, lost memories, and — at long last, at the end of it all, fulfillment. The robots respond to it all with detached observation, and we barely get any time with any human characters, who don’t live long enough to register as more than a blip. Who cares about humans, though? The robots have been programmed to serve humanity, but with their modulated responses to the catastrophes of existence, they function more as teachers than servants.

Rating: 🤖🤖🤖🤖🤖 (5/5)

Story & art: Toranosuke Shimada

NO HOLDS BARD ISSUE #1

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There’s an addictive giddiness to this comedy-caper starring William Shakespeare and his trusty assistant as masked crime-fighting vigilantes. It’s Batman and Robin, transposed onto Elizabethan times and written, amazingly, in mostly-iambic pentameter. The language pulls off a neat trick of landing modern jokes and references while slipping in and out of historically plausible style: “My curses be upon this awful case! For I am too old for this excrement,” that sort of silly thing. Reading such dense dialogue in a comic form is an unfamiliar experience, and readers may find their minds moving at a slow pace — that’s fine in slow scenes, but it’s a bit uncomfortable during action sequences, when one’s eye wants to dart from panel to panel but the flowery language insists on meticulous reading (or, alternately, doing the lovely passages the disservice of skipping past them). Still, bright colors and clever quips keep the pages turning, and like the best of Shakespeare’s work, the smart writing ensures that the book yields new pleasures over multiple re-reads.

Rating: 🎭🎭🎭🎭 (4/5)

Writer: Eric Gladstone. Art: Gabriell Kari, Dave Kloc.

THIS IS A FLYING RAT

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With the year wrapping up, I’ll be catching up on some titles that I missed when they first came out — and oh geez what an oversight that I didn’t review This is a Flying Rat sooner. Just an absolutely delightful picture-book for readers in the 4-to-8 range, with plenty of fun opportunities for reading-out-loud adults to supply silly voices. What begins as a cute but fairly dry educational work about pigeons is quickly derailed by a chaotic rodent interloper, who throws the book’s staid narration into disarray and our pigeon hero into indignant fits. By the end of the highly digestible 32 pages, we’ve learned a bit about pigeons, about rats, and also about friendship and kindness. An added plus: The creatures are depicted with such pleasant simple shapes that they will be easy for young budding artists to replicate in their own work. I’m no fan of pigeons after what they did to my balcony, but the bird in this book has won me over.

Rating: 🐦🐦🐦🐦🐦 (5/5)

Written by Andrew Cangelose. Illustrated by Josh Shipley.

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ALSO: SUPER SANTA, A NEW JUNJI ITO COLLECTION, and CATS!!!!!

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As mentioned at the top, do give Klaus a look if you’re seeking hard-boiled snowy adventure. Also fun this week: New Firefly and Power Rangers books, as well as One Dark Night from DC and Avengers Forever from Marvel. I’m looking forward to curling up with Cats! Purrfect Strangers, a book about three girls becoming first-time cat companions. There’s a new collection of old Junji Ito works entitled Deserter, full of precisely the kind of horrors one hopes for from Ito’s work. And from Graphic Mundi, two ponderous memoir-style books, both of which have perfectly descriptive titles: Iranian Love Stories is precisely as it sounds, as is Menopause: A Comic Treatment. Article Source: https://www.thestranger.com/slog/2021/12/23/64290728/this-weeks-comics-robots-in-something-like-love-william-shakespeare-is-a-secret-crimefighter-and-cats