Saturday, June 22, 2013

International Ink extra: Zits: Chillax

For several years, I've written International Ink, an infrequent column on the City Paper's website, with reviews of comics-related books. I plan on continuing it, but I've fallen way behind on reading the books I'm being sent or have bought, so I'll be posting single book reviews here over the summer. When I get caught-up, I'll try to get back to the multi-book columns in the CP.

First up is Zits: Chillax (Harper, $9.99) by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman. It's an illustrated novel, a form that's made a popular comeback in the comics world with the success of Wimpy Kid. The genre is old though - I've got a copy of Skippy by Percy Crosby from 1929 sitting next to my computer as I type this. Borgman's illustrations are integral to the story, as the text quits and let the picture carry the story at times.

I had no idea that a Zits young adult novel was coming out, and was rather surprised to get a copy. For any fan of the strip, it's definitely worth  reading. Since the press release says the comic is in 1,700 papers, that's probably a  respectable number of people. The novel features all the main characters and reads much like a comic strip continuity. Strip star Jeremy and his best friend Hector have tickets to a Gingivitis concert. The band "has a reputationf or some pretty insane stage behavior. Sure, there has been the occasional wardrobe slippage, virgin sacrifice, and live animal ingestion, but it's not like these guys use that to get attention. They are first and foremost musicians." In between ignoring homework about Richard Nixon and Watergate, the two boys need to figure out how to get permission to go to the concert. When they find out that their garage band's guitar-player Tim sold them his tickets because his mother has cancer (a revelation done solely as a splash page illustration), they decide to go to concert and  buy something memorable there for Tim (with a bit of prodding from Jeremy's girlfriend Sara).

The novel slips into slapstick when they get to the concert, but even with the cancer subtext it's a light fun read. Borgman's cartoons definitely add to the story, and while Scott's language is probably not that of a real teen, he has a way with a phrase. If you or your children enjoy a drawing with an accompanying sentence such as "There's something beautiful about causing somebody to spew a mouthful of soda just by saying something hilarious (unless, you know, you're in the row in front of that person)"  give this novel a try. A second  book, Shredded, is previewed at the end. I'll be looking for it.

Next up - another comics-related novel: She-Hulk Diaries, a romance story.

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