4.25.12 Reviews

(Sound of crickets chirping)

(Sound of my wallet thanking you)

(Sound of a silent internal cardio weep)

Yeah, I didn’t actually buy a single book this week, but still want to heartily recommend Top Shelf’s exquisite reprinting of Brendan Leach’s Pterodactyl Hunters in the Gilded City. That said, I thought I’d just repost a couple tidbits. First, my original review. Second, the short blurb that accompanied it as the headlining selection in my annual “best of” list.

(Review, Originally Published @ Poopsheet Foundation 6/30/10)

If you can imagine a mainstream-y blend of Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen coupled with DC Comics’ recent Wednesday Comics project helmed by Editor Mark Chiarello, you’d be getting close to the visual production wonder of Pterodactyl Hunters. It’s a 36-page comic on newsprint that’s made to look like a faux newspaper edition of The Sun from an alternate reality New York, circa 1904. The “front page” is brilliant; it combines the perfect rendering of cheaply printed images and blurred text just past recognition, with plenty of Easter Eggs hidden, including mentions of Gary Panter and David Mazzucchelli. I also enjoyed the back page advertisements with references to some Southern California haunts like Oxnard and Ventura. A couple of the interior pages are also cleverly inserted as dual use images, so that they can be removed and hung as impromptu one-sheet posters. The whole thing is just pretty frickin’ charming, and if you don’t immediately fall for it, well, then what’s wrong with you? The story revolves around the 20-year tradition of the brave men in the Pterodactyl Patrol battling the “Ptero Terror,” in what looks to be hot air balloons, with flare guns, and harpoons rigged with dynamite (“bomb lance”). The Pterodactyl Commission has pledged to end the dinosaur onslaught (and apparently the last two remaining creatures) by 1905. Demographically, the book takes inspiration from reality in fine New York City fashion, where certain ethnic groups are drawn to certain professions and a respected rivalry exists between them. Leach makes a smart narrative choice to focus on family here, specifically two brothers in the Ptero Patrol with different ambitions, personalities, and values, along with the generational rift between them and their father. This focus really grounds it and makes it accessible as a personal drama first, with the fantastical story elements as an attention-grabbing backdrop. The results are thoroughly original, an engaging aesthetic that compels you to become enamored of this created world and be completely entertained. Leach’s dull gray ink washes come alive with the crackling energy of his imperfect pencil lines and all of the depicted action. The lurid tale rings with an air of a pulp cinema experience. You can feel the H.G. Wells and King Kong classic monster horror influences blending with more subtle sci-fi elements and the big grand adventure fueled by man’s societal paranoia. Do yourself a favor and get over to www.iknowashortcut.com and order yourself a copy today, just $2 to cover the shipping costs. And let me tell you, that’s a bargain. I can’t recommend it highly enough. This is seriously one of my favorite new things and I’ll let it slip right now at the year’s midway point that this will be standing proud on my “Best Mini-Comics of 2010 List” here at Poopsheet Foundation. In a recent TCJ interview, Leach revealed that he’d like to do stories set before and after this one, rendering this the second installment in a trilogy. I certainly hope that’s a formal plan and not just a passing desire, because you can sign me up right now for copies of each. This is definitely the type of work that will spread via strong word of mouth, blogger buzz, and retailer commitment, finding the larger audience it rightfully deserves. Grade A+.  

(Best Mini-Comics & Small Press Titles of 2010, Originally Published @ Poopsheet Foundation 12/28/10)

Ptero Hunters is the clever cornerstone in what I’m calling the “Newsprint Revivalist Movement,” joining mainstream offerings like DC’s largely uneven Wednesday Comics and indie breakouts like Pete Hodapp’s The Yawning Void. Leach presents a scraggly-lined story that’s epic in scope, utilizing the grand spectacle of action adventure that the name surely implies, but wisely roots it in the effortless accessibility of emotional family drama. It blew me away.


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