Thursday, April 13, 2006

More Library Books: A Contract With God and Teenagers From Mars

Good news for my fellow Williamsburgers (Williamsburgians?) who rely upon the local library for their comics: I have finished Teenagers From Mars (by Rick Spears and Rob G.) and A Contract With God (by Will Eisner).

Of course, I can’t say anything about the latter that hasn’t already been said more eloquently elsewhere. Naturally, I found “The Super” and the summer-vacation story very powerful. I mean, it’s Will Eisner, you know? And yet, I think I went into the book with no real expectations, so discovering these stories was that much more of a revelation as to how good he really was.

However, this doesn’t mean I will compare Teenagers From Mars to Contract With God. On the whole TFM was entertaining, if a bit bipolar. I appreciated its message, but when the big rampage at the end of the book started percolating, I wanted to step in and advise our heroes not to go so far with their rebellion. There’s one moment in Clerks where Dante, cited for selling cigarettes to a minor, is told there is no possibility of appeal. That moment has always seemed wildly unrealistic to me, and it therefore sacrifices a little bit of the movie’s credibility. Not that Clerks is a searing docudrama about the hideous conditions faced every day by heroic minimum-wage slackers, but most of the time it exists in the real world. TFM spends a little less time in the real world and ends up being a Kevin Smith movie with a bit of Natural Born Killers thrown in.

Still, I did enjoy Macon and Madison’s romance, and the individual issues flowed into each other almost seamlessly. Rob G.’s art is well-suited to the story, breaking out of a fairly standard grid for the big action sequences. He also includes a lot of detail, not just in backgrounds but on the main characters’ ubiquitous T-shirt iconography.

Anyway, maybe I am just na├»ve, but the extremes to which both sides go during the third act just seemed over the top. To that point, the book had done a good job setting up the main characters’ low-key existences. In a sense, then, the big ending keeps the book from being completely predictable, although some predictable plot elements set it up. I want to like Teenagers From Mars, and I think it’s worth reading. I am just not sure if I was in the right mood to appreciate it fully.

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