Funny, diverse, engaging: a lively addition to Duffy’s Nursery Rhyme Comics (2011) and Fairy Tale Comics (2013).

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FABLE COMICS

Twenty-eight fables—or, as Duffy pithily puts it: “bossy stories with a message for you”— get clever treatments and twists from nearly as many graphic artists.

Inspired by antecedents from Aesop and other traditions to more recent works from the likes of Ivan Krilov and Ambrose Bierce, the entries are a savory mix of standards and more exotic fare. Surprises lurk in even the more familiar tales: James Kochalka’s Fox can’t get those grapes despite donning a jet pack; R. Sikoryak’s “Lion + Mouse” is a terrific George Herrmann pastiche; Graham Annable jettisons the usual moral by giving his aggressive Tortoise (“In your face, you frickety fracking rabbit!”) a lift to the finish line from an eagle. Among less-familiar contributions, George O’Connor’s presentation of four tales from Aesop in which Hermes plays a role and Maris Wicks’ “The Dolphins, the Whales, and the Sprat,” featuring a small fish who delivers informative minilectures on cetacean anatomy while trying to broker a peace between warring parties, stand out. Except for R.O. Blechman’s minimalist “The Sun & The Wind” and, at an opposite, less-successful extreme, Jennifer L. Meyer’s diaphanously arty “Fox & Crow,” the fables are framed in neat panels of sharply drawn, easy-to-follow cartoon art, with legibly lettered dialogue or narrative. Morals are generally not explicitly stated but (aside from Tortoise’s triumph) are clear enough in context.

Funny, diverse, engaging: a lively addition to Duffy’s Nursery Rhyme Comics (2011) and Fairy Tale Comics (2013). (afterword, contributor notes) (Graphic fables. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-62672-1074

Page Count: 128

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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More trampling in the vineyards of the Literary Classics section, with results that will tickle fancies high and low.

DOG MAN AND CAT KID

From the Dog Man series , Vol. 4

Recasting Dog Man and his feline ward, Li’l Petey, as costumed superheroes, Pilkey looks East of Eden in this follow-up to Tale of Two Kitties (2017).

The Steinbeck novel’s Cain/Abel motif gets some play here, as Petey, “world’s evilest cat” and cloned Li’l Petey’s original, tries assiduously to tempt his angelic counterpart over to the dark side only to be met, ultimately at least, by Li’l Petey’s “Thou mayest.” (There are also occasional direct quotes from the novel.) But inner struggles between good and evil assume distinctly subordinate roles to riotous outer ones, as Petey repurposes robots built for a movie about the exploits of Dog Man—“the thinking man’s Rin Tin Tin”—while leading a general rush to the studio’s costume department for appropriate good guy/bad guy outfits in preparation for the climactic battle. During said battle and along the way Pilkey tucks in multiple Flip-O-Rama inserts as well as general gags. He lists no fewer than nine ways to ask “who cut the cheese?” and includes both punny chapter titles (“The Bark Knight Rises”) and nods to Hamilton and Mary Poppins. The cartoon art, neatly and brightly colored by Garibaldi, is both as easy to read as the snappy dialogue and properly endowed with outsized sound effects, figures displaying a range of skin colors, and glimpses of underwear (even on robots).

More trampling in the vineyards of the Literary Classics section, with results that will tickle fancies high and low. (drawing instructions) (Graphic fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: Dec. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-93518-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2018

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What a wag.

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DOG MAN

What do you get from sewing the head of a smart dog onto the body of a tough police officer? A new superhero from the incorrigible creator of Captain Underpants.

Finding a stack of old Dog Man comics that got them in trouble back in first grade, George and Harold decide to craft a set of new(ish) adventures with (more or less) improved art and spelling. These begin with an origin tale (“A Hero Is Unleashed”), go on to a fiendish attempt to replace the chief of police with a “Robo Chief” and then a temporarily successful scheme to make everyone stupid by erasing all the words from every book (“Book ’Em, Dog Man”), and finish off with a sort of attempted alien invasion evocatively titled “Weenie Wars: The Franks Awaken.” In each, Dog Man squares off against baddies (including superinventor/archnemesis Petey the cat) and saves the day with a clever notion. With occasional pauses for Flip-O-Rama featurettes, the tales are all framed in brightly colored sequential panels with hand-lettered dialogue (“How do you feel, old friend?” “Ruff!”) and narrative. The figures are studiously diverse, with police officers of both genders on view and George, the chief, and several other members of the supporting cast colored in various shades of brown. Pilkey closes as customary with drawing exercises, plus a promise that the canine crusader will be further unleashed in a sequel.

What a wag. (Graphic fantasy. 7-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-545-58160-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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