- Series: Bad Machinery (Book 3)
- Paperback: 136 pages
- Publisher: Oni Press (December 23, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1620101939
- ISBN-13: 978-1620101933
- Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 0.5 x 12.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 45 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,360,532 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Bad Machinery Volume 3: The Case of the Simple Soul Paperback – December 23, 2014
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From School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—In this third installment of the series, Allison brings the wit and charm of his British webcomics to fans in the U.S. Readers follow the group of young teens and their attempt to unravel mysteries in their town of Tackleford. The book trails various story lines, such as the boys trying to solve arson incidents and the girls endeavouring to "clean up" a troll they found under a bridge. Although the mystery-solving aspect isn't solid, what stands out in this work is the authentic dialogue, characters' constant questioning, and the protagonists' experiences as "new" teenagers. Allison addresses how they are coping with physical and emotional changes, balancing friendships, and romantic relationships in a humorous way. However, the relegation of conversations about love and romance conversations to the girls' narrative and the mystery-solving adventures to the boys' section makes this work in some instances feel too gendered. The comic-strip look and layout are solid and along with the vivid illustrations and bold colors enhance the appeal of the series. VERDICT A good, humorous addition to school and public libraries' graphic novel collections.—Sujei Lugo, Boston Public Library, MA
About the Author
Born in a hidden village deep within the British Alps, John Allison came into this world a respectable baby with style and taste. Having been exposed to American comics at an early age, he spent decades honing his keen mind and his massive body in order to burn out this colonial cultural infection. One of the longest continuously publishing independent web-based cartoonists, John has plied his trade since the late nineties moving from Bobbins to Scary Go Round to Bad Machinery, developing the deeply weird world of Tackleford long after many of his fellow artists were ground into dust and bones by Time Itself. He has only once shed a single tear, but you only meet Sergio Aragonés for the first time once. John resides in Letchworth Garden City, England, and is known to his fellow villagers only as He Who Has Conquered.
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Speaking of which...
John Allison is one of the most talented writers of dialog in the business these days. His characters all speak with their own voices, their own thoughts. He's been honing his craft for decades now and it shows. The story and art in this book show him at his finest.
There are a lot of good reasons for "Bad Machinery's" popularity. While the book encompasses just one mystery, the collection really reflects three different lines. First, of course, is the mystery that arcs through the whole book. Next, though, the series is seasoned by "one off" jokes and bits that only take a strip or two or three to set up a laugh. Finally, there are issues, characters and relationships that were first developed in the earlier strips and continue to develop in this series, (and that will undoubtedly continue to appear and develop in later books as well). This adds a lot of depth and interest to the whole undertaking, and reminds me very strongly of "Doonesbury", which followed a very similar pattern.
Also in the style of "Doonesbury", Allison has a real command of "minimalist" or succinct humor. You only get a few panels per strip, and only so many words. You have to set up a situation, work it, and then deliver a payoff with just a few drawings and a few well chosen words. That is just brutally difficult to do, (think of how many bad imitators of artist/humorist Gary Larson's "Far Side" are out there), and Allison pulls it off brilliantly. Allison does this all extremely well, and some of the deadpan lines and throwaways are just dead funny.
Plus, each of the six teens, and almost all of the secondary characters, are individually realized and engaging. Within a few pages this is not a comic book, but as compelling as any YA novel. In this one we have a budding girlfriend/boyfriend dynamic that is addressed both from the point of view of the two young crushes and from the vantage point of their not-yet-attached mates. (Puppy love and romance have descended on Tackleford, along with a mystery troll.) The tone can change from winsome to sharp in the space of a single panel, although the general approach is affable and good-hearted. Added to that is the fact that the dialogue is fast, sharp, witty, and yet generous. It is not snarky or mean spirited, and is ultimately good-natured, if a bit edgy. As a result you end up liking these people and sympathizing with their various predicaments and foibles. (Again, echoes of "Doonesbury".)
So, a light authorial touch, insight, humor, and engaging characters. It's hard to mix clever, witty, and amiable with knowing commentary about teen life, but this book accomplishes that with style. A very nice find and well worth a try.
Please note that I received a free advance ecopy of this book in exchange for a candid review. Apart from that I have no connection at all to the author or the publisher of this book.