Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Book Review: KING AROO, VOLUME 2 by Jack Kent (IDW/Library of American Comics, 2013)

Still struggling to catch up hereabouts...  I was hoping to post the next DUCKTALES RETROSPECTIVE this past weekend, but life once again got in the way (or ran me over, "as the bee may case").  In the interim, I'll try to catch up on some overdue books -- book reviews, that is.

For a while there, it looked as if we weren't going to make that second journey to the kingdom of Myopia.  IDW evidently had considerable difficulty finding good-quality copies of Jack Kent's KING AROO strips from the period 1952-54, and, as a result, this volume is checking in a year or two late.  (To be fair, some other publishers' classic comics reprint projects remain stubbornly stuck on the launching pad.)

I can give this volume no higher praise than to say, if you enjoyed the first AROO collection, then you'll certainly like this one.  By now, Kent's drawing style has definitively settled into the deceptively relaxed, scritchy-scratchy approach that would carry his strip through to the end.  Distinctive differences between AROO and its closest strip relatives -- KRAZY KAT and POGO -- begin to manifest themselves.  Among these are a curious predilection for bad puns (complete with appropriate groaning reactions from the victims) and a willingness to occasionally take the characters outside Myopia's one square acre of territory.  Sometimes, these travels land our friends in the "real-for-sure world," for example, when Aroo goes to England to attend Queen Elizabeth's coronation.  (This being a fantasy strip, Aroo and his major-domo Yupyop stop on their way home for an extended visit in a surreal land called Hebefrenia.)  Aroo also literally "travels through time" -- a grandfather clock, to be precise -- and winds up in a "world beyond time" where he runs into such fanciful figures as Diogenes and a "missing link."  On occasion, Kent seems to be borrowing directly from his hero George Herriman, crafting a long story in which a retired moon-jumping cow is encouraged to get back into action and a series of gags involving a "coach dog," both of which ideas popped up at various times during KRAZY KAT's run.  Well, there are much worse places from which to swipe.

I was a little surprised that Bruce Canwell's "groundbreaking" introductory biography of Jack Kent wrapped up in this volume.  So what ancillaries can we expect in future volumes?  Artifacts from this fairly obscure strip seem to be rather thin on the ground.  I would hate for a lack of supporting materials, combined with the arduous search for easily reproducible strips, to cause the next edition of this fine series to be delayed even longer than Volume 2 was. Hopefully, IDW has discovered a reliable pipeline of material and Volume 3 will appear in short order.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for letting me know that this is available. I always enjoyed "King Aroo" when it ran in the "Chicago Tribune," and I still have the paperback collection of the strips that was published back in the 1950s.

The many interesting characters in "King Aroo" were always entertaining and funny. Mister Pennypost the mailman (a kangaroo) who could fly Wanda Witch's broomstick. But Wanda couldn't! Then there was the King's heart-throb, the Beautiful Princess who ruled The Kingdom Next Door, Mister E the elephant (with a terrible memory), Drexle the Dragon who couldn't breath fire, and Professor Yorgle, the Authority-on-things-in-general. And these were just the major characters!

Thanks for your column, Chris. It is always enjoyable.

Richard Smyers