Posted by: Graeme McMillan on March 30, 2007
I really don’t know what’s worse; that I have a Happy Mondays song stuck in my head from out of nowhere, or that I can’t remember the name of it. Is it “Loose Fit” or “Kinky Afro”? It’s the one that rips off “Lady Marmalade” – That’s “Kinky Afro,” isn’t it? I have no idea where it came from or why, but all I can tell you is that it’s making me want to see what Mondays songs are available on iTunes, which can’t be a good thing. Let’s try and distract me, shall we?
TEXAS STRANGERS #1: In the nicest way possible, Texas Strangers is the best Saturday morning cartoon that you never saw. The set-up is a weirdly perfect mix of different influences: Harry Potter in the Wild West meets Shrek (A giant green Scottish monster?), but it’s done in such a way that I’m convinced that it’s not going to succeed in the direct market, if that leap of pessimism makes sense. It’s all about the format, more than the work itself – I simply don’t feel as if a $2.99, 32-page monthly book is the right kind of book to make kids want to pick it up, for some reason. And that’s a shame, because the book itself is a lot of fun – writers Antony Johnston and Dan Evans waste no time setting up the overall arc of the series before getting into the plot for this particular story, which is full of all manner of western cliches given a twist. There’s nothing especially new about anything in the story, but it’s solidly done and with enough energy and abandon to work – there’s something weirdly early-2000AD-esque about the way that it pulls together pop culture artifacts in order to make a story for kids, but the difference here being that it’s not the latest horror movie or TV show that kids wouldn’t be familiar with being presented as something new and exciting, but instead things that kids would be very familiar with being used because of the familiarity. But there’s more to this than the (perfect) high concept; it’s things like the ridiculousness of the cliffhanger (“He’s been kidnapped! And he’s lying in a truck full of dynamite! While being shot at!”) that make this worth reading.
Also a plus for the book is Mario Boon’s art, which is blocky and clear, like Mike Parobeck trying to do Scott Pilgrim. It’s not perfect artwork (It’s just a little bit too blocky, for my liking) and, again, looks like it’s a pitch for a cartoon series that should be watched while in pyjamas and eating cereal, preferrably at age seven, but it works for the series and the story. It’s helped immensely by Traci Hui’s colors, which add atmosphere and impact where the linework itself is lacking. But, like the story itself, it’s something that makes me want to read the book in another format; the scale and clarity makes it perfect for being shrunk down into a color digest like Marvel’s Runaways and Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane collections, where pushing six issues of the series together will provide a chunky block of story that just feels more worth kid hands and minds to me. As it is, this first issue is a high Okay, but I feel as if the eventual collection could be much better.
This makes me wonder – There are certain series that I only follow in trades (Runaways, Spider-Man Loves Mary-Jane – I really like that Marvel digest format, for the price alone – and Fables, to name just three), and I’m not entirely sure why. Maybe it’s something about how much story I feel I get for my money, or that the individual issues don’t feel so good alone? It’s an entirely different reading experience, of course, but what I’m really wondering is what series you lot feel should only be read in large blocks. Ultimate Spider-Man, for example, has always kind of tempted me… Should I be picking that up? Give me fun recommendations of things to pick up and avoid, people.