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Broken Lines: Book One of Four, Maybe
Review by Aaron Stueve, posted March 24, 2007

Words: Tom Pappalardo
Pencils: Standard Design
Inks: Standard Design
Colors: N/A

Story Title: N/A
Publisher: Standard Design
Price: $9.95
Release Date: March 00, 2007

I have nothing clever to say about this book that the book does not say for itself. Seek it out. You will not be disappointed.

Tom Pappalardo and a slew of artists working in conjunction with Standard Design have created what is quite simply a masterpiece. In the first of what is tellingly called Book One of Four, Maybe, Pappalardo introduces his readers to Cowboy, Spaceman, Vampire, Maggie, and Myron, five almost archetypal heroes whose adventure dances the edges of reality like Fred Astaire on crack. But fair warning, this is NOT a comic book. It is the first in a series of four illustrated novellas that will leave you literally salivating for more.

I first saw Pappalardo’s work a few months back when I reviewed the surreal and entertaining Famous Fighters. In that comic Pappalardo, along with his intrepid collaborator, Matt Smith, introduced readers to Cowboy as well as a slew of other characters loosely connected by a twisted definition of heroism that simultaneously parodied and paid homage to some great comic book, fantasy, and sci-fi motifs. It was a funny, entertaining, and excellent little independent comic. But compared to Broken Lines it was weak.

With clever dialogue, present tense, conversational narration, and asides that will make you laugh out loud if you are, say . . . sitting in the dentist’s office waiting room quietly leafing through your copy, Broken Lines offers something few novellas do these days. It is intelligent, entertaining, and in a word, freaking awesome.

The story begins when a waitress, Maggie, meets two strange customers on a cold winter’s day in a Colorado diner. One is a stoic cowboy called Cowboy, the other is a childlike spaceman called Spaceman. Their personalities mix as if they are our culture’s answer to Oscar and Felix—and if you don’t know who they are, go to the theatre—they bounce off each other and balance each other out with a comedic flair that makes their story hard to put down. Later Firemen (not firefighters, firemen—demons whose job is to kill and destroy) burn down Maggie’s trailer park and because Cowboy "had a feeling" something bad would happen, Maggie is saved and swooped away on a twisted adventure involving a rehabilitating vampire, demons who talk like stoners, vampire hunters who are far less noble than one would think their career choice indicates, and a hapless nerd and his dog working at a gas station in the middle of nowhere.

These clever words are balanced by the art. As mentioned above, this book is NOT a comic book, graphic novel, collected volume or anything like that. Rather, it is an illustrated novella. With periodic panel-to-panel art done by Pappalardo and various other independent and amazing artists, this book fires ahead where others would bog you down. There is a mixture of illustration, Photoshoppery, and collage filling the pages between the prose and continuing the story along with a finesse that belies and benefits the oddity of the actual tale being told.

And what an odd tale it is; odd, fun, well written and with likable, intriguing characters, a plot that never stops, intersections of panel-to-panel art, and a quote from William Blake for the cherry. Do yourself a favor and buy this book, seek out future issues, and become a fan. You will NOT be sorry.

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