|Hader and the Colonel. By Donna Barr. Seattle, WA: MU Press, 2000. 124p. $12.95. ISBN 1-883847-36-2.|
From fetching the silver ring from the snout of the Kapowsin boar to killing a basilisk for its eyelid to plucking out the jawbones of the Guard-Captain of the Warrior-King of Dethenia, the pair find plenty of adventure--not to mention hunters eager to stuff and mount the Colonel, and a female Vetschauer who just wants to mount him! But the biggest challenge of all comes when the pair triumphantly return home, only to have Hader plucked from the Colonel's back by an eager young Vetschauer soldier....
The story moves along rapidly and is loaded with details and ideas. Rather than turn the story into a retrieval-fest, Barr balances the quest with other adventures, such as the extended pursual of the Colonel by the she-harpy, which turns into a confused life-or-death scramble with two hunters out for a trophy. In between, Barr gives us a good sense of Vetschauer anatomy and lifestyle (she focuses less on Hader, no doubt because he springs from much more familiar stock). The narration can be a tad repetitive because the various chapters in the book were originally published as short pieces in ZU and New Horizons. But this isn't a major problem.
(Speaking of chapters, the table of contents is completely incorrect. Not that this is a major problem either, but it certainly was startling to see how off it was!)
As always, the art is a joy to follow. Barr is one of the holdovers from the Black-and-White Revolution, and all I can say is, thank God she's still working. The sequence where the Colonel, blindfolded, fights a basilisk is extremely interesting, sort of a cross between expressionism and Southwestern Native American art--which is appropriate, given that the fight takes place in the desert. There are a few panels that look rushed, and on occasion the various shades of black blend into one another confusingly, though that may have been the fault of the printer rather than the artist. But even the most complicated panels can be puzzled out, which cannot always be said for other purveyors of complicated B&W art (e.g., manga artists).
Anyway, this is an excellent book for adult and YA collections. First-time Barr readers might prefer to start with the more developed Stinz books, but this one is certainly worthy of attention.
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