Bob is a flower, an angry flower. Joined by Stumpy the branch, the forlorn Love-Bot and a host of targets strip-mined from politics and popular culture, he's out to let everyone know that angry can be zany, if not exactly funny. The setup is surreal comedy gold, promising just enough Bloom County and Zippy the Pinhead to make for a great underground comic. Unfortunately, Bob (who stars in a weekly print and Web comic) has already sold out, and much of the book seems to have been hastily assembled. Occasional strips, such as Bob asking God for a sign of His existence or Bob's near-death experience, show the character's potential, but overall Notley may be more concerned with achieving wackiness than tightly constructed jokes or trenchant observations. A 28-page Pure Action insert feels like little more than filler to round out the book's page count. Notley's art is inconsistent, ranging from clean and tight to rushed and sloppy. Not polished enough for prime time, but not angry enough for the underground, Bob sort of languishes in the middle. This collection will likely appeal to existing fans, without drawing in many new ones. (June)
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Notley's syndicated Bob the Angry Flower exemplifies the new science-fiction comics. Instead of rocketing around the galaxies, it generally stays on terra firma and lets the aliens come to it. It features robots, especially the lugubrious author's alter ego, Lovebot, and, getting brainy for a change, quantum phenomena, as when Bob, instead of just chopping a "spunky crippled kid" up with an ax, whacks him with a "quantum waveform decollapser" that renders the annoying child into innumerable, identical, possible spunky crippled kids. Trenchant references are made to highbrow fantasy (Kafka) and sf (Brave New World), but Notley is obviously most inspired by 1950s "sci-fi" flickers and their progeny of giant reptile/bug/thing attack yarns (though the big critter that most excites him is the already-big-enough bear; see the long, wordless story in the center of the book, "Pure Action"). And he's incensed by the Bush administration. Bob is pretty transparently another Notley alter ego----the main one--yet he also seems an ambulatory bud from The Little Shop of Horrors' Audrey. Energetically drawn, top-drawer madness. Ray Olson
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