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ZADZOOKS: Offbeat holiday offerings

- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 25, 2008

This chronic feature lets me review what's recently passed my bloodshot pupils. So pull up a chair, break out the sarcasm filter and welcome to:

MR. ZAD'S COMIC CRITIQUE

Jingle Belle: Santa Claus vs. Frankenstein, one issue (Top Cow Comics, $2.99) — The jolly fat man's annoying but lovable teenage daughter is back with a new blue pal to spread some macabre merriment and frightening cheer this holiday season.

What's the story? After Jingle discovers Frankenstein and releases him from an icy tomb, the legendary monster helps Santa out of a public-relations nightmare and even adds some of his artistic abilities to the elf assembly line.

Writing strength: Paul Dini, the Emmy- and Eisner Award-winning producer and writer for efforts such as "Batman Beyond" and Batman Adventures Holiday Special, brought Jingle Belle to life in 1999. He continues to chronicle her history in the latest adventure. It offers a wonderful mix of pop culture, humor, action and a fun Halloween twist.

Artist's style: Anyone in love with Tex Avery's style of cartooning will gush over Stephanie Gladden's beautiful pages. She cut her artistic chops with work on Simpsons and Looney Toons comic books, and her eye for detailed zaniness works well in Jingle's frenetic world. Besides her classic vision of Santa and his perky offspring, I especially loved her rendition of Frankenstein, a combination of his look in "Mad Monster Party" and the "Groovie Goolies."

Pop-art moments: I really enjoyed Frankenstein sitting in a room full of licensed products from the 1960s and '70s created in his honor. As Jingle and her pal Polly Green (the official Witch of Halloween) spread out such gems as an Aurora model kit (the glow-in-the-dark version, no less), a gigantic Frankenstein kit and a model of Frankie driving a Model T (remember that one, old-timers?) I immediately returned to my childhood.

Read it or leave it? The Dini and Gladden collaboration provides a wonderful tongue-in-cheek peek into the complex world of Santa. It should thrill Jingle fans and catch the sparkling eye of readers, tween and older, in the family.

PX! Book 2: In the Service of the Queen, graphic novel (Image Comics, $16.99) — The latest from Shadowline Comics' Silverline Books imprint offers teens the continuing adventures of an eclectic crew of heroes featuring an unassuming little girl named Dahlia and her cyborg Panda.

What's the story? The linguistically challenged, cigarette-smoking evil goat Pollo is back to take control of the world's computers. It will take the combined might of a former Victorian secret agent, Dahlia's father (a kindly tech professor) and a roller-skating disco samurai assassin to stop him.

Writing strength: Self-proclaimed and self-deprecating "Grammar Cowboy" Cartoon Network vibe. Mr. Anderson has a knack for bringing a unique voice to each of the characters, such as the retro samurai, and provides a mix of drama, surprises and humor to keep the reader entertained.

Artist's style: Mr. Trembley's degree in 3-D animation is well-served here with crisp, uncluttered images that nearly pop from the page. His slight nod to Japanese anime blends beautifully within a commercial art style.

Pop-art moments: A full page devoted to embarrassed agent Weatherby weeping behind his bandito-sized six-shooter combo meal from Wildwest Burger is an eye-catcher. The kid screaming in the background adds a nice touch, and I almost can smell the greasy triple cheeseburger.

Read it or leave it? This 152-page, nearly pocket-size tome includes three extra stories. The most appropriate of the group for the merry season is a tale about Santa's run-in with a group of pirates. The entire collection of comics also is available to read online at the PandaXpress site (www.pxcomic.com). I heartily recommend perusing the cyber-panels for a wealth of fun facts compiled by the creative team and attached below each Web page.

Visit Zadzooks at the blog section of The Washington Times' Community pages (www.washingtontimes.com/communities/zadzooks).