THE COMPLETE PEANUTS: 1963 to 1964 shows like the previous collection that Charles Schulz had found his voice. There are no new characters other than the short-lived Five and off-stage Joe Shlabotnik (Charlie Brown’s favorite baseball player) whose disastrous career would be a running joke for several years. Lucy’s starting to become more of a bully to Linus here, but most of the interactions are familiar—Charlie Brown trying to fly a kite, Lucy pining for Schroeder—though still very entertaining. And Snoopy’s world begins to build, as we get increasing emphasis on what a fantastic place he has inside the dog-house. But despite the description of this strip as “timeless” some of the jokes do indeed lose with time, such as one about prayer in school—and what’s with Schulz’s fascination with golfer Sam Snead?]
THE DEATH RAY is my first exposure to Daniel Clowes, best known for Ghost World and I can’t say the story—teen gets super-powers from smoking, uses them to rid the world of jerks—worked for me at all.
I’ve been disappointed with the past couple of Fables volumes and in a way the big finish, FABLES: Farewell makes them retroactively worse: a lot of the build-up to the final tragic clash turns out to be for nothing (basically everyone decides not to clash), but then again that’s better than having the clash. A nice wrap-up of everyone’s fate, leading to a better finish than most long-running series manage.
NANJING: The Burning City by Ethan Young is a grim war story about a pair of Chinese soldiers trying to escape Nanjing during the Japanese occupation so that they can fight again. Effective (all rights to cover to current holder)
And now, the book—THE THOUGHT READER CRAZE: Victorian Science at the Enchanted Boundary by Barry H. Wiley looks at the late Victorian interest in telepathy, ranging from spiritualist “thought readers” to those who claimed scientifically explicable psychic powers to an assortment of stage performers and skeptics who showed they could get the same results by trickery or impressive muscle-reading skills. This is more focused on the performers and their critics than on the general public reaction or perceptions, which makes it more specialized than I was looking for. Within that limitation, though, good and the level of skill some of the fakes exhibited is impressive showmanship indeed. Surprisingly, although the author is a stage magician and skeptic, he does believe in telepathy, even if he thinks the actual times it happens were at best few and far between.