Top positive review
2 people found this helpful
Funny, Perceptive, Good-natured, and Engaging. A Great Find.
on 13 May 2015
This book is a collection of the first hundred strips of John Allison's web comic "Bad Machinery", which is itself a spinoff from his earlier online strip "Scary Go Round". The premise is that two groups of high schoolers, one group of three girls, and one group of three boys, compete with each other to solve mysteries that have a supernatural flavor. The action is set in a medium sized town somewhere in England. This book represents one complete mystery. There are a few more, yet to be collected and printed. (This is published by Oni Press, which is the same group that publishes the Scott Pilgrim books, so someone there has his finger on the right pulse.)
There are a lot of good reasons for "Bad Machinery's" popularity. While the book encompasses just one mystery, the collection really reflects three different lines. First, of course, is the mystery that arcs through the whole book. Next, though, the series is seasoned by "one off" jokes and bits that only take a strip or two or three to set up a laugh. Finally, there are issues, characters and relationships that are developed in this series but that will continue to appear and develop in later books as well. This adds a lot of depth and interest to the whole undertaking, and reminds me very strongly of "Doonesbury", which followed a very similar pattern.
Also in the style of "Doonesbury", Allison has a real command of "minimalist" or succinct humor. You only get a few panels per strip, and only so many words. You have to set up a situation, work it, and then deliver a payoff with just a few drawings and a few well chosen words. That is just brutally difficult to do, (think of how many bad imitators of artist/humorist Gary Larson's "Far Side" are out there), and Allison pulls it off brilliantly.
Plus, each of the six teens, and almost all of the secondary characters, are individually realized and engaging. The book starts with a panel or two dedicated to each teen's preparation for a new school year. Briefly and effectively Allison sets up each character, shows us what's important about that character, and gets us involved in that character. Within a few pages this is not a comicbook, but as compelling as any YA novel. Added to that is the fact that the dialogue is fast, sharp, witty, and yet generous. It is not snarky or mean spirited, and is ultimately good-natured, if a bit edgy. As a result you end up liking these people and sympathizing with their various predicaments and foibles. (Again, echoes of "Doonesbury".)
So, a light authorial touch, insight, humor, and engaging characters. Well worth a try.
Please note that I received a free advance ecopy of this book in exchange for a candid review. Apart from that I have no connection at all to the author or the publisher of this book.