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West, Max – Sunnyville Stories #7



Sunnyville Stories #7

OK, this one is going to be a little tricky to review. Kids, do you know who Abbot and Costello were? No? Hm. Well, they had this joke about baseball players with different names and the comedic possibilities that came from those names. Their names were things like what, who, why, that sort of thing. So when somebody asked “Who’s on first?”, the joke was something like the fact that “Who” was the second basemen, while “What” was the first basemen, and this is a perfect representation of why anybody who attempts to describe humor is a fool. Objectively, as somebody who grew up in the 80’s, the skit didn’t do a lot for me, although it did help to see the original sketch, as their comedic performances saved the bit (to my modern day tastes, anyway). So what’s the point of my bringing all this up? This comic deals with a celebration at the house of a very rich lady, but it was put together at short notice and all of the servants have the day off. A trio of brothers (Who, What and Why) overhear this and offer to help out. The rest of the comic deals with guests having all kinds of trouble figuring out what exactly is happening and the names of these servants. Max ends up making it funnier than I expected, although your tolerance for this kind of humor is going to make or break whether or not you want to give this a shot. I liked how he tied it all together with the thieves who were attempting to rob this celebration, as all that information probably would stop anybody dead in their tracks. So maybe check it out, depending on your sense of humor and/or willingness to expose yourself to a new version of “funny” if you think this might not be for you.


West, Max – Sunnyville Stories #5


Sunnyville Stories #5

That page sampled below somehow sums up my wildly different reactions to each issue of this series. I’ll be rolling along, taking note of a good thing here and a bad thing there, and something like that page will come along and throw me completely off track. Max says in the afterward that these stories are based at least partly on his own experience, so if we assume that this is meant to take place in the 90’s (Max was born in 1980, so dances where he was at all interested in girls wouldn’t have happened until then), then were there still really any people who complained about the rock music? And Wang frickin’ Chung, of all things? I’m almost certainly reading way too much into what is essentially an all ages comic (with a clear emphasis on younger readers), but that kind of thing just jumps out at me. Oh right, I probably should have set this up with some kind of synopsis of the comic. I’ll get this blogging thing down eventually! Or whatever it is that I do here. So anyway, Sam and Rusty go off to a shady printer’s shop and run into a friend who lets them know about a dance that’s coming up. Rusty is terrified, as he can’t dance and will be humiliated when the whole town discovers this fact about him. So there’s training, some wisecracks here and there, and the night of the dance finally arrives. I won’t spoil any possible surprises further than that. Overall it’s another OK issue. The crowd reaction shots to some generally awful jokes could be toned back a bit (I doubt that every single person in earshot would find some of these lines funny), and I sometimes get the impression that Max writes to the page count rather than just using what he needs for his stories. Or maybe he’s just establishing his world for future issues, as otherwise the six pages in the printer shop could have been condensed into “hey, there’s a dance coming up!” pretty easily. He did throw in at least one line about the pinball game from issue #2, so he’s clearly keeping track of everything carefully. It looks like he has two more issues planned for 2012, so after #7 I’ll go back and read them again, maybe rank them in order of preference to see if any larger picture has developed. Why? Why not, that’s what I say! $4

West, Max – Sunnyville Stories #4


Sunnyville Stories #4

One of these days I might actually pick an opinion about this series and stick with it. Feels like I’ve been all over the place on this one, and I do wonder how much of it is just my mood on any given day. On this day I thoroughly enjoyed this comic and hope that Max finds a happy niche for himself in this crazy business. On past days I could get nitpicky about the little things, which would kill the whole issue. Well, that and I’m generally too cranky to enjoy something that’s so good-natured for long, but that’s more of a personal failing. Enough about me rambling away the start of yet another review, what about the comic? This tells the story of a pair of sisters who bring a toaster oven in to the local store for repair. They’re told that it’ll be at least a month until they get it back and learn from their parents that the owner of the store is sad because he got into a fight with a kid he considers his nephew years back and they never managed to make up. From there we get a cautionary tale from another town resident about the dangers of waiting too long to make amends before things start winding down. Yes, even now I’m not going to throw spoilers at you, even though if you’ve read past issues you know that a bloodbath is almost certainly not the ending. One thing I’m really starting to appreciate about Max’s comics is how well he uses his set number of pages. He always gives himself plenty of room to work with, so even though the backgrounds can feel a little thin at times he has time for all the conversations between family and friends that would occur around a town problem like this, while even throwing in bits here and there to advance the characters. And I vaguely recall having issues with sloppiness in past issues, but that wasn’t a problem here. Everything looked nice, no unerased pencil lines for lettering, and this time around the story was able to win out over any minor quibbles. If you are looking for a bloodbath then you have a wide range of options out there, but this comic isn’t one of them. It’s a nice, quiet all-ages book with a decent message. Yeah, I’m almost certainly going soft. So sue me… $4

West, Max – Sunnyville Stories #3


Sunnyville Stories #3

I was optimistic about the last issue, and there still isn’t much technically wrong with this issue, but I’m starting to get the idea that it just isn’t for me. First of all, the words are all spelled correctly and the perspective looks fine, which automatically puts it above roughly half of the comics I see. Max even has a few interesting shots, like the two visible upraised arms of a man who’s coming up over a hill. My trouble is that I’m too jaded for something this relentlessly all-ages. If you’re looking for a comic that’s safe for your kids, yeah, this one is pretty good. And possibly even parents too, I don’t know. This will probably make more sense if I summarize the plot. There are a few kids who are playing too loudly for their mother, so she sends them away to play. They run into more kids, who hatch their own plans. Meanwhile there’s an outlaw group on the loose who steal the detergent that the original mother was waiting for. The law gets involved, the kids dispatch the villains in some Home Alone-esque shenanigans, and all ends up being right with the world. Sorry if that comes across as revealing too much, but once you see “all-ages” you can pretty much count on “everything works out in the end.” Eh, maybe I’m just too damned cynical to be reviewing these things. The trouble is that there are still all-ages book like Nick Abadzis’ Amazing Mr. Pleebus series that I can see clearly as a good kid/parent reading experience, so my heart hasn’t become completely jaded yet. So that’s one more or less negative vote for this issue and one more or less positive note for the last one. Still one issue to go, which becomes the tiebreaker. The art has improved in this issue and Max clearly has big plans, which is what’s important in all of this, not one some guy with a website thinks. If even one creative person lets my reviews derail their planned comic career, I will find them and smack them on the back of the head. Just sayin’. $4

West, Max – Sunnyville Stories #2


Sunnyville Stories #2

Max had a few simple good ideas that other comics folks should think about emulating that I should bring up before I even get to the actual comic. The first is that this is #2 and his first issue is up for free at his website. That gives people an instant excuse to check out his website and a whole new story for free to anybody who enjoyed it. The second good idea he had was to post synopses to the next two issues, both due to come out in 2011, on the back page of his comic. It gives the impression of a guy who is taking this comics thing very seriously, which may not be considered to be a sufficiently jaded approach to comics, but I found it refreshing. So fine, in terms or marketing, planning and preparation, the guy is a genius. What about the comic? Well, it’s anthropomorphized, so if you have a problem with that it’s OK to move on. Anyway, two kids are walking home from school when they decide to stop and get a soda. They run into a bully, give her what-for, then see her again as they’re leaving. She challenges one of them to a pinball contest and they get back to her place to discover a bunch of old pinball and arcade games. The showdown starts from there, the family members of this bully eventually get involved, and there’s even a message at the end which, again, may or may not be your thing. Some of the images of houses and perspective looked rough, but it appeared to improve as the comic went on. People who read this site regularly probably think that this book sounds too sweet for me, and in a way it is, but I’m willing to gloss over that to emphasize the things that Max got right. He clearly has a plan, and this is clearly the early days of that plan, so keep an eye out for that guy. There’s a solid story in here, it’s designed for people of all ages, and he even manages to keep it cheap, which is odd considering that it has a color cover and it’s magazine sized. $2.99