Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Beanworld Omnibus Vol. 2 by Larry Marder

The sad thing about reading comics is that it's usually pretty easy to catch up. Oh, sure, if you suddenly realize in the year 2019 that you like Batman, there's a gigantic pile of stuff from the last eighty years you can read. [1]

But for those of us who like stories by people, the possible pile is much smaller -- in some cases, it might take time to find it all, and maybe even a couple of years to read it. Getting to the end, though, will not be difficult.

So I finally got into Larry Marder's Beanworld last winter -- hit the first omnibus in mid-December and an smaller odds and sods collection a few weeks later -- and then I just had to wait about six months for this book to be published.

It was; I got it; I read it. And now I'm all caught up on Marder's lifetime of comics, a series he's been working on (with some very long gaps) since 1984.

That's what I mean about sad. I got to read two big fat books of Marder comics within a year -- all of them new to me -- and now it could be years before there's another new Beanworld book.

So, here's Beanworld Omnibus, Vol. 2. It collects comics mostly after Marder's Great Hiatus. (He spent the '90s and the front half of the '00s as a comics-industry executive, first riding herd on the Image creators from the central office and then running Todd McFarlane's toy-making empire.) If you don't read Marder's afterword or check the copyright notice, though, that won't be obvious: Beanworld is an organic place, and there's no indications in-story of that big gap. Marder told a few pieces during those years, and came back to continue with the main thread afterward, as if no time had passed.

I don't think it makes much sense for me to talk about the events in these stories. Marder's world is quirky and specific, in a vaguely ecological way, and talking too much about those details will make it sound like an allegory, which it definitely isn't. This world is its own place, with people who have their own lives and problems and concerns: it's not related to ours directly at all. (Indirectly? Well, of course: people and their problems are things we have as well, even if we're not beans living under a giant tree on the edge of a weird pool/ocean.)

So this book has more with Heyoka and the Elusive Notworm, and sees the Pod'l'pool Cuties continue to grow up, change, and show hints of who they might be later on. That will mean nothing if you haven't read the earlier stories, and getting into more detail would be silly for both of us.

Marder's world is real and living, though: it's an organic place, where everything fits together, if not always comfortably or in the ways anyone expects. His beans are people, with the same emotions as you or me -- they're a bit more rational, maybe, a little more likely to use thought rather than violence to solve problems. (Well, except for Mr. Spook, who is of course the most popular character.)

Anyway, the Beanworld is awesome and real and unlike anything else. It took me thirty-five years to finally get around to it. I don't recommend you do the same.

[1] On the other hand, this reaction is much more likely if you're about five, in which case a lot of those stories are inappropriate for you. So you might be in the same boat anyway.

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