- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 25, 2008

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

Mr. Zad’s comic critique

Comic Book Tattoo (Images Comics, $29.99, anthology) A mix of popular illustrators and writers from alternative and mainstream mediums team up to transform 51 of recording artist Tori Amos‘ songs into wonderful sequential-art vignettes.

What’s the story? Each art narrative in this 480-page marvel offers the lyrics of one of Miss Amos’ songs as the preface before letting loose with an imaginative piece loosely based on her words.

One of my favorites highlights “Snow Cherries From France” (off the album “Tales of a Librarian”) and presents writer Irma Page’s slightly literal look at the song represented as the dreams and reality of young love. Artist Mark Buckingham offers a black-and-white interpretation with only splashes of color, like a cherry on top of a sundae.

Much more ambitious is “Devils and Gods” (off the album “American Doll Posse”) done by Jessica Staley. With only the barest of lyrics with which to work, she concocts a mighty fairy tale of woe touching on Pinocchio and Frankenstein. Shane White’s colorful, children’s-book-style illustrations complement the story.

Writing strength: Writers allowed to tap into Miss Amos’ creativity include John Ney Rieber, G. Willow Wilson, Mark Sable and Sara Ryan. The cast of creators interprets her lyrics by touching on topics of triumph, love, self-doubt, scorn, hatred, fear, apathy, death and belief in the fantastical. Overall, it’s an emotional roller coaster loaded with life’s curve balls.

Artists’ style: I love big comic art, and this effort, sized like a record album (anyone remember those?) at about 12 inches square and 1.25 inches thick, more than delivers an incredible smorgasbord for the eyes. Almost every type of art medium and style is used in the anthology, from watercolor to pencil, manga to commercial illustration.

Pop-art moments: As for some of my favorites, I suggest gawking at the intensity of Kako’s “Marianne,” the traditional animated feel of Matthew Humphreys’ “Bouncing Off Clouds,” the abstract beauty in Mike Dringenberg’s “Honey,” the harshness of Ted McKeever’s “Past the Mission” and the depth of the human face in Colleen Doran’s incredible work on “Pretty Good Year.”

Read it or leave it? A simple but perfectly executed concept, “Comic Book Tattoo” celebrates the passion of sequential art as well as Miss Amos’ musical catalog. Best of all, readers do not need to know anything about her music to appreciate the work. Nevertheless, being an occasional admirer of hers, I wish a CD of the songs had been included to make this a perfect aural as well as visual masterpiece.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars - The Visual Guide (DK Publishing, $19.99, coffee-table book) - A long time ago in a galaxy blah, blah, blah. You can’t tell a Gha Nachkt from a Kwazel Maw without a scorecard, and this encyclopedic reference guide delivers the plus-size goods (nearly a foot square), all based on the computer-animated adventure seen in theaters and soon as part of a weekly series on the Cartoon Network.

What’s the story? The 144-page, color-packed tome covers the characters, weapons, vehicles and major skirmishes between Republic and Separatist forces. It also offers enticing text tidbits on the Lost Twenty, Ashoka Tano, clone armor and Rotta the Huttlet. “Star Wars” scholars will find a table of contents but no index.

Writing strength: You want credentials for the guy telling you about Dathomir rancors? The book’s author, Jason Fry, has written previously for Star Wars Insider and Wizards of the Coast Star Wars games and is working on Star Wars: The Essential Atlas. He also is a member of the Star Wars Fanboy Association but is not part of the He-Man Women Hater’s Club.

Artists’ style: Examples of the computer-generated wizardry that, unfortunately, makes human characters look as if they were carved out of wood (check out the entries for Count Dooku and Obi-Wan Kenobi) dominate the book, with more than 500 images from Lucasfilm Animation.

Pop-art moments: Some of the splash page art is too fuzzy to fully appreciate, but most of the pieces are eye-catching. Standouts include the lair of Grievous, the detail on the Magnaguards and an up-close look at a Y-Wing attack.

Read it or leave it? Designed for about a 10-year-old to digest satisfyingly, the book is the perfect companion for the television series and will help suck a new generation of young fans into the “Star Wars” juggernaut.

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

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