Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Rack: Year One (Mostly) — bought and paid for

Won't you do the same?

OK, let me tell you a little bit about The Rack — it is undoubtedly one of the best, and certainly one of my favorite, Web comics out there. Yes, for better or worse, I'm placing the strip by writer Kevin Church and artist Benjamin Birdie on the same shelf I put The Order of the Stick and The Adventures of Dr. McNinja.

You may know Church from his popular blog, and the wit and sense of barely restrained aggression will be familiar to regular readers. But The Rack is much more than you might expect. When it wants to be, the strip can be heart-warming. It's often brutally honest. Sometimes it's bittersweet. And it's always, always funny.

Church has a great ear for dialogue, and it's easy to tell storylines are planned out and character growth has been built in. You quickly learn to care about these people who work at your local comic shop (forgetting, for a second, that the shop and its employees don't really exist).

Birdie's art is equally important to how well the strip works. There have been guest artists over the course of The Rack's run, but it says a lot about the regular artist that — no matter how good the fill-ins are — his work is what the characters are "supposed" to look like. When I think about the strip, it's Birdie's work I see.

It doesn't hurt that he continues to refine his work with each new strip, and the assurance he has with this world he's chronicling is evident. I also like that Birdie's drawings encourage the reader to pay attention — half the jokes are in the background, and the expressions on any given character's face help nail down the rest.

So yeah, basically I'm a fan. And to put it simply, if you like stuff that's good, pick up a copy of The Rack Year One (Mostly).

Disclosure: Kevin Church is what I consider an "Internet buddy," meaning we sometimes exchange e-mails and curse good-naturedly at each other. But that doesn't mean I would buy the book — or encourage someone else to buy it — if I didn't like it. We good? Awesome!