Monday, June 23, 2014

Book-A-Day 2014 #173: Bad Machinery, Vol. 1 by John Allison

The great divide in serial short comics -- whether delivered by newspaper or web -- is between serial and gag-a-day. No one seriously disputes this: most strips fall on one side or the other. Mary Worth is a serial strip; Family Circus is gag-a-day.

The corollary to this is that the best strips -- the longest-remembered, the most honored, the most beloved by the audience -- are the special few that run straight down that line, doing both and doing both well. From Gasoline Alley and Thimble Theater to Peanuts and Calvin and Hobbes, these are the bulk of the most-honored strips, the ones we love the most.

John Allison's Bad Machinery is that good, and in exactly that way: it's riotously funny, with crackerjack dialogue and realistic-but-hilarious situations; and it's structured as a series of mysteries solved by the pre-teen main characters -- and, as is typical for twelve-year-olds, the three girls are in competition with the three boys for most mysteries solved. (Allison's drawing is also wonderfully animated -- his kids are enthusiastic and grumpy and depressed and sullen, all in their body language.)

What's it like? OK: imagine Scooby Doo without the dog, age down all the kids five years, throw in a few extra kids to make up for it, and toss them into a British public school.

Well maybe not. All right: take Harry Potter Year One, get rid of the magic and depressing orphan stuff, triple the number of girls, add a black kid, and give their mysteries a little more variety. (Spoiler! It's Voldemort! Every damn time!)

Bad Machinery Vol. 1: The Case of the Team Spirit is the first collection of Allison's webcomic. (Yes, you can read it all for free online, and I do suggest you start there, and only buy this book when you can't stop your chortling.) The girls are trying to help out an old woman, "Mrs. Biscuits," whose home is standing in the way of progress building a huge stadium for the local football (soccer) club. The boys are investigating the mysterious curse on the Russian owner of that very same club. Who! Will! Win!

Seriously, Allison writes some of the best smart-arse teen dialogue I've ever seen, and his stories live up to that dialogue. And his drawing is possibly even better than that. For anyone who likes stories in comics form, about kids, with mysteries and the supernatural (or any two of those aspects), this is exactly what you didn't know what you were looking for.

Book-A-Day 2014 Introduction and Index

No comments:

Post a Comment