26 December 2016

Review: The Complete Calvin and Hobbes, Book Four: 1992-1995 by Bill Watterson

Comic trade paperback, 371 pages
Published 2012 (contents: 1992-95)

Acquired December 2014
Read November 2016
The Complete Calvin and Hobbes, Book Four: 1992-1995
by Bill Watterson

Like in the third Calvin and Hobbes volume, there's a big gap in the middle of this one (the last one), as Bill Watterson goes on a sabbatical from April 3 to December 31, 1994, which mean that like in Book Three, you just get out of the winter strips and go straight back to them.

Maybe I'm projecting, but there's a sense of the strip sort of winding down. This volume has no masterful extended imaginative storylines. I mean, there's some good stories, like Calvin making a terrible safety poster, Calvin expanding his brain with a thinking cap to do his homework, and Calvin's mom babysitting Susie for an afternoon. But the long, fanciful stories of previous volumes aren't to be found-- most of these stories are just a week or two at most.

There's also an increased cynicism, I think. I mean, Calvin and Hobbes has always been cynical, but there's more strips here from the perspective of Calvin's parents, with no Calvin in them at all, complaining about the media or being in grocery store lines or what have you. Without Calvin to leaven the mood, they just come across as old-guy-complains-about-the-world strips like you could see almost anywhere else on the comics page. All of this ads up to me thinking that Bill Watterson was getting tired. Though tired Bill Watterson is still better than most cartoonists, and there's lots to love here regardless.

All that said: Watterson's expanded Sunday strips are amazing. Maybe he wasn't so much losing his imagination as channeling his imagination into these masterpieces. The stuff he does with layouts and panel size is great; I want to reiterate what I said in my review of Book Three, that it's a shame he apparently stopped cartooning, because he could clearly do something amazing.

And: the oft-commented-upon end of the strip really is perfect. "...let's go exploring!"

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