Top Shelf Reviews

I ordered a few books from Top Shelf’s recent on-line sale, and they arrived this week. It was a nice little gift, from myself. Apart from some free samplers, there was also Alex Robinson’s Too Cool To Be Forgotten, two James Kochalka books, and a CD inspired by Craig Thompson’s magnificent Blankets opus by the band Tracker (I’ll have to read it again now, with the accompanying soundtrack, though its 11 tracks won’t be enough to sustain the reading of the massive volume). I also picked up these two little numbers; Chris Staros’ Yearbook Stories 1976-1978 and Jeffrey Brown’s Every Girl Is The End Of The World For Me.

The latter is an epilogue to his so-called Girlfriend trilogy, of which I have read none. However, this104 page book was still quirkily enchanting, and I’m sure very guy could relate to it. I showed it to my fellow office dwellers when my package arrived and the title alone brought many a smile. Brown is a respected cartoonist, as well as a prolific one. Told over three weeks as 2003 becomes 2004 it’s essentially an intricate, dialogue driven look at the ladies that come and go from his life and how he feels about them. With his e-mails, and phone calls he paints a picture of a heart that flits between hope, confusion and sorrow, with great realism. The sketchy art won’t be for everyone, but if you’re a fan of Harvey Pekar’s work, you’ll no doubt find another everyman hero here.

Top Shelf have also just released an awesome trailer for Brown’s other series, The Incredible Change-Bots, a Transformers parody, but I’m sure it’s much more than that. Watch it and laugh.

Yearbook Stories was a pleasant surprise. Consisting of two short tales in its 32 pages it centres on two formative tales of the author’s high school years. The first one, The Willful Death of a Stereotype, chronicles Chris’ anxiety and desire to fit in yet still be himself, when he is presented with a move to a new school and a chance for re-invention. The first step in this process means pinning his hopes on becoming the new class president. Iluustrated by Bo Hampton, and with great lines like, “But dreams are not made of logic, and that alone is their magic,” it’s more whimsical than Every Girl, but still honest and real.

The second story, The Worst Gig I Ever Had is considerably more mature, with its swearing and nudity and is drawn by Rich Tomaso. This focuses on young Chris’ first band and a job for a bunch of bikers in the woods, which explains the title. I much preferred this tiny tome rather than Every Girl, with it’s quaint vibe that’s similar to The Wonder Years TV show from a few years ago. Both tales of the young Chris are bite-sized episodes in his life that perfectly capture the typically curious world view of a growing boy.

You can go here for a Every Girl Is The End Of The World For Me preview, and here for a Yearbook Stories preview.

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