26 September, 2012

Review: Love Puppets #s 2 & 3.

Love Puppets #s 2 & 3. 
Jessica McLeod and Edward J. Grug III. 
Monster Robot Industries, 2008 and 2009, 24pp each, A5, about $5 each.  

Although I'm reviewing both of these issues at the one time, they are a little different from each other. Love Puppets #2 and #3 don't feature the same characters or storyline, but they are both created by McLeod & Grug, and they both inhabit the same world — a world where everybody are puppets. That's the interesting and catchy thing about this series: all the characters are some sort of puppet; a glove puppet, a string puppet, a full-costume puppet, etc., but definitely a puppet. Why is that? No reason I suppose. A stylistic choice would be my guess, just as some people draw comics where all the characters are animals for no reason other than stylistic choice. I suppose there's also the possibility of a shortcut to character and personality through the type/look of puppet. Or maybe the 'G' simply fell off the term 'Glove Puppets'? It definitely makes the whole thing a heck of a lot cuter! And boy, is it cute! 

Issue 2 is a lovely tale that takes place in the same café as issue 1 did (if I remember correctly), and concerns the boss, a book signing, and food. To say any more would probably give too much away because, although these comics are about 24 pages long each, they're definitely quick reads, which, as well as being light and airy, are quite linear and to the point plot-wise. This is not a complaint, it's storytelling that's well suited here, successfully getting the single-issue tale satisfyingly told. To be honest, my memory of finishing issue 1 was that it looked like I was in for a continuing soap opera style storyline, and I'm pleasantly surprised that it's not the case; I'd much rather see what other inhabitants of the Love Puppets world are also up to. 

While issue 2 is quite cute and quaint, issue 3 has a slightly darker tone to it. I really hesitate to use the word "darker" at all because really there's almost nothing in these comics that could be called dark in any way, they're so lovely. Issue 3 however does feature a character who's quite distasteful and a sexual opportunist, which puts more of an anxious edge to the general feeling of the issue.

The art in both is bold and cartoony, with an unlaboured mono-weight pen line throughout, sometimes with a thicker line for emphasis or to make a character stand out from the background. The layouts are all clear and usually easy to read. It's all very unpretentious and honest with not a ruled line or computer typeface in sight, which helps add to its likeable indy flavour. 

For a bunch of "puppets", there's an awful lot of emoting and acting on each page. A lot of this is due to pacing and layout, with a fearless use of silent panels at the right times and places. A lot of it is also due to nice character work and acting in the drawing. It may be simplistic in style, but I think deceptively so, with so much information, both plot and emotion, being communicated very directly. There are a few times where the draftsmanship looked a little on the clumsy side for my liking, but I'm sure that would once again be chalked up to the indy style of the work, and I only noted it in a panel here or there. 

Between the two of them, issue 2 was my favourite, if only because of the lovely way the story unfolds – cockle-warming, if you know what I mean. That being said, it's certainly not as if issue 3 is a disappointment in any way, just a different story with a different set-up.  

The cute style, idiosyncratic story telling, and the effortless way the puppet characters are made believable make these books worth your while picking up or ordering from the creators. I enjoyed them and so did my (then) 11 year old daughter. Make sure you get number 1 while you're at it too.

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