19 December 2016

Review: The Complete Calvin and Hobbes, Book Three: 1990-1992 by Bill Watterson

I am on an audio review ROLL. What if a cockney space con man was a Time Lord? Of course IT WOULD BE AWESOME. I review The Trouble with Drax. (Less awesome: the most recent Fourth Doctor Adventures series finale.)

Comic trade paperback, 371 pages
Published 2012 (contents: 1990-92)

Acquired December 2014
Read July 2016
The Complete Calvin and Hobbes, Book Three: 1990-1992
by Bill Watterson

The third volume sees the last few ongoing elements of Calvin and Hobbes materialize: the Tracer Bullet strips (a pastiche of hardboiled noir conventions), the ever-changing game of Calvinball, and the format-busting Sunday strips. That last innovation is preceded by a nine-month hiatus for Bill Watterson; the strips collected here jump straight from May 4, 1991 to February 2, 1992, meaning we've only just gotten out of winter and suddenly it's snowing again! But after the hiatus, Watterson returned with more innovative page layouts that really let him show off his accomplished draftsmanship. It's a shame Watterson has largely eschewed comics since the end of Calvin and Hobbes, as the Sunday strips largely shift to  chronicling the varied contents of Calvin's imagination, the lavish detail and dynamic layouts lead me to conclude Watterson could so something fantastic with the canvas of a true graphic novel. Some metafictional cynicism starts creeping in, too, though, with a number of strips featuring Calvin ruminating on the tension between pure art and crass commercialism.

This volume features of a couple of the best Calvin and Hobbes storylines I remember from my childhood, such as Calvin's duplicator (Calvin creates five duplicates to do his work, only to discover his duplicates have his work ethic, meaning he now has six times the laziness to contend with) and the sequel about the moralizer (Calvin's ethical duplicate horrifies Calvin when it turns out he likes Susie). None of the collected editions my family had when I was growing up must have contained 1992, however, as all of the post-hiatus storylines were unfamiliar to me. I found the one where Calvin travels in time from 6:30 to 8:30 to pick up completed homework from his future self, only to discover his 8:30 self didn't do the homework in anticipation of receiving it via time travel, causing both Calvins to travel together to 7:30 to blame that Calvin for the problem, to be an utter delight-- as is, of course, most of this book, which yields at least one laugh-out-loud moment per page, whether is be a far-fetched storyline about deranged mutant killer snow goons or a slice-of-life story about Calvin's discovery of specialized magazines for gum-chewers or a simple gag about how Calvin's mom's job prepared her to be a stay-at-home mother.

Though my favorite strip is probably the one where Calvin's dad explains to Calvin that miserable vacations are that way on purpose, and better than a luxury cruise, as they make the whole rest of your life feel like a luxury cruise. I can hear my parents offering a similar explanation. (Though I note the family isn't actually seen to go on any miserable vacations in this volume.)

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