|Sonovawitch! And Other Tales of Supernatural Law. By Batton Lash. San Diego, CA: Exhibit A Press, 2000. 176pp. $14.95. ISBN 0963395467.|
NOTE: This book collects issues 17-22 of Wolff & Byrd, Counselors of the Macabre, as well as the first issue of Mavis.
ANOTHER NOTE: According to Exhibit A Press, "The original comic book issues were nominated for a Bram Stoker Award, given by the Horror Writers of America. Lash was also nominated for a Will Eisner Comic Industry Award as Best Writer/ArtistHumor for the Sonovawitch issues."
An introduction by Neil Gaiman and a "Cast of Characters" begin the book. The stories include:
The book concludes with a substantial section about the author and editor.
The characters are very strong. Mavis and Toby's relationship is quite well done; one can understand both why she can't say "Yes" immediately and why she wants to stay with the guy. Esther Woodhull steals the show in her story. Wolff and Byrd are a tad bland, but I suspect they're more lively in other books, given Byrd's abortive relationship with a supermodel and Wolff's on-again, off-again dalliance with a sexist lawyer. Anyway, in most of the stories in this book they're secondary characters, felt rather than met (rather like the Sandman in some of the stories in that series), so it's not a problem.
As I said before, the dialogue is superior. (You can tell how good it is by the almost complete lack of narrative necessary to keep things coherent. The one story with significant amounts of narrative is actually a joke involving a mind reader.) Not only do the various characters sound entirely natural, but even the "rhubarb" in the background is good. The page when Mavis's relatives and neighbors are celebrating her engagement is hysterical, as Mavis desperately tries (and fails) to break through their excited statements.
I also appreciate Lash's varied approaches to the stories. While some are fairly straightforward tales centered around the characters, others involve newspaper or television newscasts, characters talking right to the "camera," or characters building a story based on their inadequate understanding of the events. In general, the legalese sounds legitimate, as do the newscasts.
The black-and-white art is simple enough to keep the book a smooth read, yet filled with enjoyable subtle touches and homages. Look for the Spirit parody page, the manga section, and the "Three Stooges" witches. (There's quite a bit of Eisner feel to this book, actually.) My only criticism, and I'm not sure this is much of one, is that Mavis appears to have stepped off the pages of Archie. Given that Lash was the creator of the infamous Archie Meets the Punisher, this is understandable, but a bit distracting, since I keep wondering if there's a reason for the way she looks.
The back matter says that Supernatural Law is under option at Universal for development into a live-action film. Frankly, I think it would be better as a TV series, which would give the characters time to be fleshed out (or not, depending on the creatures involved) and allow various messages to be advanced. Still, I'll be first in line for the movie should it appear. An extremely entertaining and readable book. Most highly recommended, primarily for adults and teens, especially those interested in law. Although there is nothing objectionable in here (except maybe to religious fanatics who have the vapors at the mere thought of the supernatural), I suspect kids would find parts of it overly complicated.
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