Friday, December 28, 2012

Templar, Arizona Vol. 1: The Great Outdoors

by Spike

I still can not get behind the idea of reading webcomics on the computer.  There's something about it that just doesn't hold my attention, and even when I start to read a series (like this last summer, when I made plans to read every page of Achewood finally, figuring I could finish it before Chris Onstad even drew another page), I quickly lose track, or forget to keep reading it.

Anyway, some webcomics creators are kind enough to print their books for us dinosaurs, and therefore I was able to sample Templar, Arizona, a webcomic done by a very talented cartoonist named Spike.

This is one of those comics where, in a very short amount of time, you know you need to read all of.  It opens with our main character, Ben Kowalski being woken by a phone call from his editor at the Templar newspaper.  His editor is a pretty abusive person, and so we are treated to a few pages of ranting, which gets interrupted when a young girl comes wandering into Ben's apartment.

In short order, we learn that Ben is one of those people who just lets things happen to him, and has moved to a city where nothing is as it is in the rest of the United States.  We are introduced to the book's supporting cast - Zora is the young girl who does whatever she wants; Gene is her father, who is incredibly stupid; Scipio is a kind neighbour, a pacifist, and a bodyguard.  And then there's Reagan, who is obviously the heart and soul of the book.  She's a loud, brash woman, with a tendency to wear clothes that don't fit her properly, and to tell people what to do, but in the kindest of ways.

Reagan is determined to get Ben out of his apartment and around the town, where we learn that Templar is home to many Pastimes (think cosplayers who dress from different historical perspectives), sects (like the Sincerists, who never lie), and strange statues like the one erected to Jimmy Carter.  There are ideas being tossed at the reader on almost every page, and just as you start to think you have a sense about what this book is going to be about, we discover that Ben has more than a few secrets of his own.

This book is compellingly readable, and filled with handy endnotes to help explain some of the quirks of Templar.  Spike clearly has a lot worked out in her head which hasn't been put on the page yet, and I enjoy the pace at which she reveals things.  Her art is loose and organic, and her characters are loveable.  Recommended.

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