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Spooner #1

Posted: Monday, March 29, 2004
By: Jason Cornwell



Writer and Art: Ted Dawson
Publisher: Astonish Comics

The Plot:
The adventures of a young married couple by the name of Spooner and Roxanne who manage to encounter all the pitfalls that most young couples encounter, as Roxanne is convinced she's becoming fat, while Spooner doesn't quite grasp the idea that women like to trick men into saying stupid things. They also have the parents asking when their grandchildren will start arriving, and other martial hurdles like morning breath, sharing the household chores, and the fact that they're both succumbing to the ravages of time.

The Good:
I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by the consistency of this book's humor as Ted Dawson is quite strong at generating a funny moment in every one of the strips that's reproduced in this issue. In fact while the opening story was quite enjoyable, I found the second half of the issue to be a better presentation, as the humor is forced by the format to deliver its humor at a rapid fire pace, and thankfully the gags are continually amusing. It also helps that the jokes stem from interaction between the two that feels genuine, as there's never a moment where a character does something that isn't consistent with their established personalities. I mean Spooner and Roxanne feel like real characters, as they're likeable, and most importantly believable. I can believe Spooner is dumb enough to let some of his internal thoughts slip out for Roxanne to hear them, and that Roxanne would enter conversations with the sole purpose of reading more into Spooner's comments so she could feel insulted. Both characters are also quite charming in their ability to use humor to defuse a situation, and Spooner's uncanny ability to walk right into the middle of a carefully laid trap remains funny no matter how many times we see him do it, thanks to the simple fact that he's allowed moments where it looks like he'll almost be able to extract himself from the situation, only to put on an impressive display of how to make the situation worse. It also helps that Roxanne never seems to get all that upset, though this could be simply due to the fact that the comic strip format that Ted Dawson has chosen instantly resets their relationship at the beginning of every strip.

The art is the simplified style that one tends to find on a daily comic strip, but I have to give it full marks for its clear delivery of its visual gags, and more importantly its wealth of facial expressions, as there's some jokes that work exceptionally well thanks to the look of exasperation on Roxanne's face, or Spooner's equally amusing clueless expression. The art also makes good use of all the comedic devices that are available to comic stripes, from the thought balloons that show us what the characters are thinking using visual images, or the floating hearts to indicate a character's emotional state. There's also some cute little visuals that help to sell the ideas that have been established, such as their inability to sit on the couch when the floor is available, or our look at the bent nails in the chunk of wood that Spooner's working on in his shop. The little visual references to "Herobear and the Kid" are also a welcome touch, as it's another great series, and it's nice to see it's getting a plug in these pages.

The Bad:
It's not a big problem as I didn't really miss them in this issue, as the interaction between the two lead characters is strong enough all on its own, but I did find it a bit curious that there's not really a supporting cast in this strip. I mean in the thirty-nine strips that are reproduced in this issue we get one appearance by Roxanne's sister, one where Spooner's talking to an older man, and two where he's interacting with kids. Now there's not a rule written in stone that a comic strip needs a supporting cast, but they do help to expand the world that a comic is set within, and the lack of one does make the strip feel a bit limited. I mean it's a bit like watching the Honeymooners without an appearance by Ed Norton. It's just as funny, but Ed brings a sense that Ralph has a life away from Alice. Now this is an easily solved problem as just because we haven't seen them doesn't mean Roxanne and Spooner don't have friends, and as I stated previously the interaction between the two is enjoyable enough all by its lonesome, that if I didn't have a column specifically devoted to detailing my concerns about the comics I review, than I wouldn't have mentioned it. Still, the issue doesn't really give us much of a look at the lives of these two characters apart from each other, as I couldn't tell you what Spooner or Roxanne do for a living, though since one of the strips shows Spooner seated at a drawing board I'm guessing this is linked to his job. Still it would be nice to get a better look at the lives of these two apart from each other, as right now the humor feels a little too focused on a single aspect.

Love And Marriage:
A very enjoyable reading experience that is helped considerably by the simple fact that this issue marks my first exposure to the Spooner series, and as such this issue acts as my introduction to the comic strip. Now it's not quite as charming as my all time favorite comic strip "Calvin and Hobbes", and the humor isn't quite up to the levels of the "Far Side", my second favorite, but it manages to secure the third spot. It's heads above the strips I currently encounter in the local papers, as Ted Dawson has created a young married couple who don't need the comedic props that turn me off the other comic strips. I mean the humor holds up with Ted Dawson showing a wide range, as none of the jokes feel like they are recycled, and while many of the strips focus on Spooner managing to put his foot in his mouth as he inadvertently insults his wife, each time out the humor manages to put a different spin on the premise. It also help that both of the characters are very likeable, as it's easy to understand why these two would get along with each other, and watching them moving through their lives together is very entertaining.



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