Friday, February 5, 2016

Review: Bill & Ted's Excellent Comic Book Archive

By Reboot

In the last week, BOOM! Studios released all of the Bill and Ted comics that Marvel did back in the early 90's that were written and drawn by Evan Dorkin. BOOM! has had the rights for at least the last couple of years and have now finally put it all together in one, oversized hardcover volume called Bill & Ted's Excellent Comic Book Archive. Now, I haven't even thought about Bill and Ted for years let alone watched or read it, but BOOM! Studios has been making good decisions and Evan Dorkin is one of my favorite people in comics so I had to give this a read through.

This definitive Bill & Ted tome includes both the Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey adaptation, all twelve issues of the ongoing series, and opens with a new forward by the man himself, Evan Dorkin. One fact from this forward that may come as a surprise to those who are more entrenched in Bill & Ted fandom than I is that Evan Dorkin admits he's never seen Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. Egregious! This prompts me to come clean about something too. I've never seen Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey. Way non-non-heinous, right?  (Editors Note: I freaking love these movies and will be forcing this writer into a Bill & Ted marathon. This injustice will not stand. ~Wilderowens)

If Evan Dorkin didn't make it a point to discuss in his forward how his characterization of Death is different from the movie, I would've had no idea. And the adaptation wasn't bad. Obviously it's a bit dated. I know it's hard to believe that a property like this that's so heavily entrenched in the pop culture of the time (and a little behind the times at the point) would be dated a mere 25 years later, but it's true. It was a simpler in our pop culture history. We only had five Planet of the Apes movies out way back then (it's even older than the Tim Burton reboot!). Then something interesting happened.

After reading the Bogus Journey adaptation, the ongoing series kicks in. At first it seems like fairly standard comic fare. Taking a couple of plot threads from the adaptation to keep the plot moving forward. As you turn the pages though, the comic slowly begins to shape itself into something entirely different and unexpected. 

The character of Death ends up taking on a major role. Which is great, as Death is Evan Dorkin's admitted favorite character to work on here. You can see a lot of Evan Dorkin's own personality shine through the character of Death. I suppose that's a bit morbid, but I don't see anything wrong with that. It's that blend of cynicism, frustration, honesty, and hope that's so uniquely Evan Dorkin that Death is able to express on the pages of his work in this book. That character alone is worth it for any of Evan Dorkin's fans to pick up this oversized archive.

Beyond Death, in time Dorkin is able to craft a story that's uniquely his own. A few issues in, he's able to set up his own plot lines that lend themselves to the kind of stories he wants to tell. Bill & Ted became a backdrop to hang a story about the world we live in. The world that Evan Dorkin sees. Everything from corruption in the music industry, to media sensationalism gets covered with two innocent young metal heads reacting to it all. And despite the fact that they're more hairband/metal heads, Dorkin is able to work in references to bands like Gwar, which would be one of the last things you'd probably expect in a Bill & Ted comic.

If you already know Evan Dorkin's illustrations, you probably know what you're getting yourself into in terms of the art in this book. If not, you will be dealing with a lot of bizarre looking objects with human characteristics. A robot thumb guy, other crazy robot things, short aliens that have a bit of a Gremlins thing going on, and more! While feeling of its time, in both style and appearance, it's still very much Evan Dorkin's art. I'm sure that Marie Severin's inking helped give the book a more Marvel look as it's more detailed inking than in works like Milk and Cheese, but quite honestly the comics in this hardcover could have easily been done at an underground publisher with its expressive look. So much so that SLG had reprinted these comics some years ago in black and white. 

Overall, this is a must for any fans of either Bill & Ted or Evan Dorkin. You don't have to be a Bill & Ted fan to enjoy this. I haven't thought about this franchise in any serious way (outside of those Keanu Reeves' memes) in years, and I was able to jump right in and enjoy the ride. I strongly feel that we don't have enough Evan Dorkin comics out there, so anything he's done is something I want to get my hands on. And to be perfectly honest, we just don't have enough Evan Dorkins in comics to begin with. So if you love Bill & Ted, jump on this. If you love Evan Dorkin, grab a copy. If you don't really know Evan Dorkin yet, do yourself a favor and find out. I'd probably recommend Milk and Cheese first, or Beasts of Burden, but seriously what have you been waiting for?

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