Monday, April 7, 2003

The Marvelous Adventures Of Gus Beezer With Spider-Man # 1 - A Review

Written by: Gail Simone
Penciled by: Jason Letheco
Inked by: Jason Lethcoe
Colored by: Hi Fi
Lettered by: Dave Sharpe
Editor: Mike Raicht
Publisher: Marvel Comics

A common complaint I hear at the comic book store I work at is that there are no books for children anymore. And it is a valid complaint. With a few exceptions, there aren’t many books that are really written for kids. There are books devoid of offensive content (Archie), books based on cartoons (Cartoon Cartoon and Dexter’s Lab) and simpler comics based on an established superhero (Batman and Justice League Adventures, which I know are cartoons also, but lets not quibble)… but nothing that is actually written with kids in mind. Even the books that profess to be about children suffer from Peanuts syndrome, being about intelligent, wisecracking adults trapped in children’s bodies.

Complain no more, parents of all nations, for Gail Simone has surprised me with the perfect book for children of all ages! I should note that my surprise comes not from Simone’s writing something so perfect but from the fact that the same person who wrote such perfect twisted dark humor for Agent X and Deadpool can also write so perfectly for children.

Gus Beezer is a kid’s kid. He loves comics and superheroes and plays pretend that he is his favorite superheroes. He is on the edge of his seat waiting for the new Spider-Man movie. He’s even named his pet dog Zabu, after the faithful cat of KaZar. And this book lets us see the world through his eyes in a fashion not unlike that of the much missed “Calvin and Hobbes”.

The entire concept of the book can be summed up in the opening scene, where we see Spider-Man going out on a nightly patrol. He spots The Lizard, swings down to meet him and the Lizard yells… “Mom says it’s time for dinner! Hey… is that my jump rope? It is my jump rope!” Cut to a picture of a boy in boy with a Spider-Man shirt and Astro-Boy hair hanging upside down from a tree and insisting that he is using a web-line to a not-so understanding older sister.

The rest of the book continues in this fashion: Gus will be in the middle of a daydream, living out his fantasies playing pretend, when he is disturbed by the intrusion of other people. This continues, with the brave Spider-Gus facing menaces at a family reunion such as “Auntie Venom” and a Green Goblin who pelts him with over-cooked hamburgers. And don’t worry True Believers: The Real Spider-Man DOES make an appearance.

The artwork is perfect, being very childlike and sketchy without being overly cartoony. And I never would have thought it possible to make a grey bun look natural on Venom or to have a cartoonish Doctor Octopus look menacing wearing a chef’s hat and “Kiss The Cook” apron, but somehow Lethcoe manages. He also does a nice job with the comic strip “Amazing Tales of Mysteriousness”, written and drawn by “Grinning” Gus Beezer, which runs underneath the main story and is apparently drawn on lined notebook paper, like so many of the comics I made when I was a young lad.

All in all, this is a perfect book to give to the young ones you want to introduce to the joys of reading and comics in particular. Wherever Bill Jemas is right now, I hope he is kicking himself for letting Gail Simone go and I hope that DC snaps her up and gives her an exclusive contract ASAP.

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