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Wednesday, October 06, 2004
Fun Visual Fantasy 
Title: Smax
Writer: Alan Moore
Pencils: Zander Cannon

Look, look! HANI is actually managing to write a book review! Okay, I confess. It's not a book. It's a compilation of a five-book comic series. Currently, Smax is available only in hardback, but paperback versions of comic compilations normally come out a year after the hardback.

Smax stars two super-cops from a previous world seen in Top 10, set in a totally different world, "Earth One-Thirty-Seven" to be exact. Jaafs "Jeff" Smax is a blue giant accompanied by his human partner, Robyn Slinger, on a trip back to his childhood home to attend his uncle's funeral. To Smax's dismay, he is pressured into a quest to slay a very powerful dragon.

The art is bright and beautiful, and full of magic, stolen from other sources. Keep an eye out for Pooh, Humpty Dumpty, the Mock Turtle, various versions of Harry Potter, Casper, and so much more. They're thrown in everywhere for the visually observant, just to make sure you fully appreciate Cannon's work.

Like every classic story of coming home, Smax is a country boy who made it big in the city, comes home determined to look down at everything, and ends up learning a few things about where he comes from. As the story unfolds, we, through Robyn, learn of Smax's history, motivations, and the deep dark secrets he keeps. The story itself is dark and intense, from Smax's tale of his birth to the moment he confronts the dragon for the final time. I don't want to give out any spoilers here. Yet, the comic is far from dark and intense, thanks to the small details, like the visual candy mentioned earlier, a sword that sings "Dancing Queen," dwarfs who play a role-playing game called Malls & Muggers, several Deaths practising division of labour, and incestuous frustration.

Each character is individual and adorable in their own ways. I love Aunt Minka, the newly made widow who does not mourn her dead husband too much. The fights between Jaafs and Robyn are completely believable and both sides are expressed so well that you won't know which one to side with. The dragon is the epitome of Earth 137: within its cute and adorable appearance, is a powerful, magical entity with a dirty, naughty streak peeking out now and then.

This comic's only real flaw, I think, is in it's boy-girl relationships. Jeff's love interest herself comes through only as an inferior feminized copy of Jeff, rather than as a character in her own right. The bonds of interest or love don't come through clearly either. The conclusions of break-up or happy-ending (depending on which couple) came in too abruptly as well. But there's just so much to enjoy, that such a minor flaw can be overlooked. I especially love the final battle with the dragon. Robyn's struggles as a science hero in a world where electricity doesn't work is a marvelous touch to a fantasy story. I really, really like how the battle was ended.

A highly recommended light affair, if you can get a hold of this comic!

HANI  # 7:42 PM
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Off Topic, Off Topic  
Nope this is not a review, but more of a post-holiday-back-to-work have-to-say-something kind of randomized crap. Ah this is so out of place but...

In HK I met up with Siuman, a South China Post Executive Editor of the books division.

'What books do you do?' I go.
'Almost everything. Serious, translation, fiction, politics.' She starts.
'Language?'
'Any language that I can take on. Used to be English. Then went to Chinese. Now its both.'
'Multitasking eh?'

We shake our heads and smile.

'What books do you do? She goes.
'Everything in my market sector. That's Secondary High School market and Pre-tertiary.'
'Do you do design?' She nods, then asks.
'No designers do design.'
'I do design. Production?'
'Right. I do costings. But it all comes back to me at the end, if the book fails it's my fault for making a bad book.'
'It's always our fault, dear.' She goes.

We nod and smile again.

'How many books are you taking on now?' I ask.
'Now? I'm doing 3.'
'On average?' Curiousity kicks in. Does she have it better?
'Four books a month. Everything, including design. Remember. Average of 400–500 pages per book.'
'Yeah.'
'You?' Her turn to ask.
'Me? I've got three series.'
'How many in a series?'
'5 per series.'
'Right. That's 15.'

Silence.

'You like your work?' She asks, finally.
'I'm passionate about it.'
'Me too. That's the problem, isn't it?'
'Yeah. We're both fools.'

The book business, is sad, and their editors are overworked. 90% of authors are poor and live on a can of anchovies a month, and designers get paid in pitiful cents. Please be kind and buy original works of art. Don't support piracy. Or else in many years to come, you won't have books to read. *sniff*

minishorts  # 4:14 PM
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