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Land of Nod #1
posted January 3, 2006

Creators: Jay Stephens
Publishing Information: Dark Horse, $2.95
Ordering Numbers:

Jay Stephens Land of Nod is back, with lousier cover stock for only $.45 more an issue!

Okay, cheap shot. One stays with Black Eye Press for gorgeous design and production work (and cheaper prices) and one goes with Dark Horse for the marketing muscle and retail relations that may make this perennial potential breakout title a hit. Knock on wood.

In a way, Land of Nod #1 is sort of like Oddville #2, as Stephens has decided (at least for this issue) to forego past Land of Nod favorites like Captain Rightful and the actual Land of Nod gang to use characters from his limited-run alternative strip: Jetcat (Melanie McKay), her obnoxious schoolmate Tod Johnson (whose baby flying sister was much of the focus of Oddville), and old enemies Giant Radio-Controlled Robot and Gargantua Monkey. Nod characters, particularly Space Ape #8, make guest appearances in the manner Stephens has conjoined his various worlds in the past: the Nod characters are in McKay and Johnson's favorite cartoons, comics, etc.

The story is simple: old Jetcat enemies band together to put down the superheroine, who as Melanie McKay is attending her birthday party. And, as usual, the basic plot is beside the point and the joy is in details -- a Space Ape bottom-margin strip that becomes part of the story, Stephens' well-drawn cartoony super-duper battle, and the banter between the goofy badguys. Stephens has carved out a very specific little niche for himself: super-clever, fundamentally well-executed goofy cartoons. While that combination has made millions for its practitioners on television, Stephens -- whose work is better than nearly all of them -- has comics (and its less-lucrative rewards) almost all to himself.

So if you don't like that kind of thing: run away! And if you do, you should check out Stephens' work, starting with this new book. Although he's capable of desultory, ineffective comics -- the last Black Eye issue of this title, for example -- for the most part, he's a solid entertainer.