Deadshirt Is Reading… is a weekly feature in which Deadshirt’s staff, contributing writers, and friends-of-the-site offer their thoughts on Big Two cape titles, creator-owned books, webcomics and more.
Joe Stando is reading…
Over The Garden Wall #1
Written by Jim Campbell and Amalia Levari
Art by Jim Campbell and Cara McGee
“There were so many hours in a day to wrangle and tame.”
By my count, this is at least the fourth time I’ve written about Over the Garden Wall for Deadshirt. I loved the cartoon miniseries, and was impressed with the comics, which until this point have been limited runs which expand on stories from between episodes. I was a little wary of an ongoing series, though, because I felt it was going to retread the same beats we’ve seen before, and weaken the tight package that is the show.
The first story, written and illustrated by series veteran Jim Campbell, allayed my fears, to some extent. It follows Greg on a dreamy return to the Unknown, accompanied by his pet frog, Jason Funderberker, where he runs into some elfish countryfolk being terrorized by a giant cartoonish cat. It’s a cute, quick story, and Campbell retains his grip on most of the essential elements, like Greg and Wirt’s personalities. All in all, though, it doesn’t feel too different from what we’ve seen before, and while fun, it feels slight.
The second half of the issue, on the other hand, is what I’m here to talk about. It’s a story about the Woodsman’s daughter by series writer Amalia Levari and artist Cara McGee, and it’s incredible.
McGee’s art immediately evokes the more lush, dark moments of the cartoon. The change in tone is palpable, as we shift from a lighter one-off to a more spooky, melancholy ongoing. It’s not entirely clear so far, but I believe this ongoing story covers the Woodsman’s daughter’s time alone as her father mistakenly believes her to be trapped in his lantern. Most of the dialogue in the story is the daughter’s interior monologue, so we immediately get a sense of her personality. She’s a bit more formal than Wirt, Greg, or Beatrice, and not quite as bold (yet). Her account of her time alone is florid and poetic, but in a natural way. It’s a fascinating, immersive story, even though she barely leaves her house. Small moments, like a flock of blackbirds outside the window or a group of shadowy figures dancing around a fire in the distance, capture the ominous vibe of “The Ringing of the Bell,” one of the best episodes of the cartoon. It’s a very different look at the Unknown from a lot of what we’ve gotten in the comics, which felt more like extended joke sequences than the melancholy bits from the series. McGee’s art almost recalls that of Emily Carroll’s at times, a darker, scarier woods.
It seems that we’re going to continue getting new Over the Garden Wall media for a while, in one form or another. The comics we’ve gotten so far have been fun and inoffensive, quick yarns that slide into the series’ timeline without problems. But the Woodsman’s daughter story here is the first comic story I’ve read that truly matched the show’s varied tone, and felt like an addition that rivaled the main series. I was nervous about it, but Levari and McGee’s work already feels like an essential element of the canon.
Adam Pelta-Pauls is reading…
Sex Criminals #15
Written by Matt Fraction
Art by Chip Zdarsky
“Keep at it, Dave-n-Maddie, America loves watching you two crazy kids figuring it out.”
There isn’t a lot of frontal male nudity in comics these days, but Fraction and Zdarsky have been putting dongs in the pages of Sex Criminals from day one. The draw of the book, however, has always been “come for the dongs, stay for the sex-positive drama/complex visual comedy/letters page.” Midway through its third volume, the book follows titular criminals Jon and Suzie, fugitives on the run from the (possibly evil?) Sex Police, as they try to figure out themselves and also the secret to why they stop time when they rub one out. Now, though, they’ve assembled a veritable Batman Incorporated of sex-powered folk, in preparation for… Actually, I don’t know? Some kind of showdown. Like a Power Rangers fight with dildos? Super Soakers filled with lube at high noon? A hentai mecha brawl? All of the above?
Whatever form it takes, it’ll be a joy to behold. Zdarsky’s art has always impressed me with its ability to blend cartoon sensibilities with amazing human expression. This series has always showcased both those elements, and this issue is no different. There are some heavy emotional scenes in here, and the art makes them really punchy and real, but also all the dongs are great.
This issue is all about that moment when you realize you want more out of a relationship. Suzie, Jon, and company all struggle to navigate that instant, and it’s fascinating to read. Fraction’s writing is so human, and it’s so easy to see yourself reflected in the actions of one or all of the people in the book. It’d be a tough series to jump into blind right now, though. But if you’re interested in a slightly sci-fi comedy that is also the best Sex-Ed class you never got, then get on the bus. It’s the bus with a dong on it, probably.
Thanks for reading about what we’re reading! We’ll be back next week with a slew of suggestions from across the comics spectrum. In the meantime, what are you reading? Tell us in the comments section, on Twitter or on our Facebook Page!