Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Book-A-Day 2014 #279: Bad Machinery, Vol. 2: The Case of the Good Boy by John Allison

First of all: yes final cover, as far as I've seen. Oni Press is yet another comics company that has trouble with its ONIX feed, perhaps picking up the slack as DC's once-legendary bad covers and title data has pulled itself up to the realm of just slightly outdated.

Next: Bad Machinery is one of the great webcomics of our time, one of the great mysteries series of our time, and just plain wonderful. Creator John Allison should be world-famous and beloved, with his character's faces licensed for tea-cozies and dog-leads and other vaguely British-sounding paraphernalia. That hasn't happened yet, but hope springs eternal.

Bad Machinery is being slowly collected into real-book form, with the first case coming out last year and a third promised for January of 2015. (Hit the link in the prior sentence for my review and an unabashed attempt to make you become a massive Bad Machinery fan. Or hit the link in the prior paragraph to read the strip online, which will do the trick for anyone with a functional soul.) But today we're on that second case, collected as Bad Machinery, Vol. 2: The Case of the Good Boy.

In a mid-sized fictional British city -- Tackleford, somewhere in West Yorkshire -- there is the kind of school where all of the students wear uniforms. And at that school are three boys and three girls, all around twelve years old. The girls are friends, most of the time. The boys are friends, most of the time. In between the two groups the more complicated relations of kids on the verge of puberty reign. And both groups solve mysteries, usually with somewhat supernatural underpinnings, like a sedentary British Scooby-Doo, only with added sarcasm.

I can tell you for ages that the dialogue in this book is smart and witty and deeply amusing, but you might still disbelieve me. So, instead, here's the dialogue from the bottom half of page 65, chosen because it made me chuckle at the time and think about doing this:
Mum: Shauna, because you did so well this term, we got you a present.
Shauna: What is it?
Mum: A dog!
Shauna: Are you sure? It looks mental.
Mum: Go on, Shauna, say what you think.
Shauna: I think it is going to poo like a LION. I like it maybe 63%.
This case centers on the Tackleford monster, which may be stealing local toddlers. ("DCI Mike Carver of Tackleford Police was confident that the children would be found. 'There are thousands of children in Tackleford Metropolital Borough, but only nine have vanished in the last three weeks. I've got a couple of officers keeping an eye out. They'll turn up.' ... 'We urge people not to become hysterical if they can possibly avoid it.'") And Alexander, another creature that Mildred insists is a dog. And the magic pencil that Mildred won at the local carnival. And a mash note written on pink paper with a panda sticker on it. And more than one little sibling. And the thrilling outdoor adventures and singalongs of Naturecraft Folk. Among other things.

The Case of the Good Boy is somewhat less of a mystery and more of a monster hunt than the first book, but it's just as amusing and oddball: Allison is a great cartoonist, equally deft at body language and the verbal variety. His sense of humor is British, in that understated, highly verbal way, with understated insults like stealth missiles and wit so dry it's a step beyond sarcasm. Bad Machinery is wonderful and fun, and should by no accounts be left to readers the ages of its cast.

Book-A-Day 2014 Introduction and Index

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