May 25, 2008

Up in the Ayre

(In the interests of full disclosure, a review copy was provided for this post)

Here's where I admit a deep, dark secret - sometimes, I'll find myself watching a rerun of The A-Team. I know, it's not the world's greatest drama, and it's irredeemably cheesy...but sometimes, I need good, old-fashioned escapist entertainment.

Remove a good amount of the cheese, and you have Ayre Force - a solid, extremely entertaining graphic novel that provides some great action movie thrills, fun dialog, and a strong wish that this would be a continuing series.

Admittedly, this is part of the Bodog empire, which encompasses poker, music, and mixed martial arts. This graphic novel is a very simple action adventure tale...and that is a compliment. The script by Adam Slutsky and Joseph Phillip Illidge contains not only your usual action movie-style wisecracks, but some interesting concepts (like an espionage agency co-sponsored by the United States and Canada). The art by Shawn Martinbrough is also good to look at...but the coloring, at times, looks off. I realize the team was trying to take an almost cinematic approach, but the coloring sometimes detracts, rather than adds, to the novel.

And the Bodog affiliation also leads to my second quibble...and this is more of a personal preference: the use of real-life people as "characters" in this novel. I realize that branding is important to a corporation, but in this case, it seems a little forced and awkward. (I've never really been a fan of media that provides fictional accounts of real people - if you're good, you're Kinky Friedman, who creates a great supporting cast that makes Friedman the detective enjoyable; if you're bad, you get Andrew Dice Clay in The Adventures of Ford Fairlane. Luckily, this graphic novel lies somewhere in the middle, closer to Friedman's approach). Yes, maybe having gratuitous cameos by the Bodog "family" might be cliche...but I think it would be much more effective to have them interact with fictional "analogues" than the approach here.

However, there is one saving grace - proceeds from this book go to the Calvin Ayre Foundation, which deals with educating disadvantaged youth, environmental issues (including bear bile farming), and social development. Although it has some flaws, Ayre Force is the kind of graphic novel meant to be read on the beach....or on a plane flight...or even on a lazy afternoon.

It's the kind of book that delivers some really pure, escapist fun...and is well worth your attention.

And since it sets itself up for an inevitable sequel...when's the comic series coming out?


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