Monday, May 14, 2012

Review: 'Very Near Mint Volume 2' by Justin Peterson

If you missed out on the first volume of Justin Peterson's Very Near Mint last year, it was certainly one of the top independently published comics of 2011.  Smart, funny, well drawn, and well put together, VNM was a combination love song and pastiche to comics and the comic book industry as a whole.  More than that, though, there was an actual story involved, and the book ended on one heck of a cliffhanger.  Luckily, Peterson is back with the sequel, and things pick up right where they left off, which is a very, very good thing.

VNM is like the slacker film for comic books.  It's Clerks in ink.  The humor is irreverent and sometimes crude but always hilarious, enough to make you laugh out loud more than once.  The art style is similar to that of Penny Arcade, and the book as a whole feels like part of that family.  I could easily see VNM's Colin and Sam riffing on pop culture with Gabe and Tycho.  Every page is a blast, and you'll find yourself rereading parts and laughing all over again.

Where VNM really shines is the attention to detail.  Peterson is clearly a fan of - or at least familiar with - the comic book industry and the fanboys that come along with it.  Inside jokes abound, especially the comic-con scene (which, I have a hunch, is more than a little based on Peterson's own experience) but Peterson plays both with and against stereotypes and cliches that a working knowledge of this world isn't necessary and anyone unfamiliar can enjoy it simply for the humor.  While the book centers around a comic book store, there is a wider world that Peterson makes available.  Posters for fake books line the windows of The Splash Page and there's a nice callout to Dogfish Head beer; it's this kind of minutia that really shows the love and dedication that has been poured into the book.

This second volume of Very Near Mint leaves us hanging once again, which is a wonderful feeling because it lets us know that there is definitely a third book on the way.  I have no doubt that Peterson can keep the magic going.  If the third volume is the last, then we're in for a hell of an ending, but here's to hoping we see the staff of The Splash Page for many more years to come.

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