Lackadaisy: Vol. I |
by Tracy Butler (4th Dimension, 2009)
In the city of St. Louis, in the days of Prohibiton, Mitzi May runs the Lackadaisy speakeasy (and above-ground cafe, which makes great pancakes). It's not an easy endeavor; her husband and partner had to leave, in a very final fashion and under mysterious circumstances. Competition is fierce and armed. But staffed by the manic musician Rocky, surly bartender Viktor, her insistent godchild Ivy and a small force of aggressively cool musicians and cheerful servers, it might manage to hold on in the often cutthroat underworld of the Jazz Age.
Well, if Rocky would stop scaring away customers. And drawing fire. Especially that last one; it's so hard to interest investors while everyone's running for their life. But if anyone can manage, it's Mitzi. Especially if Rocky's timid, lethal cousin Freckle keeps showing up. Win or lose, it's a rollick caught in progress by creator Tracy Butler. With a cast made of cats, of course, because that is funnier.
And Lackadaisy is funny. Much of it comes from Butler's dialogue; her brilliant banter somehow never strains belief. But most of it comes from the characters themselves. From Rocky's loose-limbed scrambling to Mitzi's calm composure in the face of death and floor olives, half the fun of Lackadaisy is just watching the cast go about their lives.
Butler's cartoonish character designs allow for more expressiveness, but there are no attempts to simplify or skip details in this comic. The background settings are as detailed as a photograph. Cars, guns, plates of pancakes or cobbles in the road, all are drawn with a consistent accuracy that adds physical weight to the sometimes absurd adventures of the Lackadaisy gang. The cats are each clear individuals, each with their own dialect of body language. The entire setting is washed in lighting not seen since movies went to color, so that Lackadaisy looks distinctly filmed in sepia, rather than simple uncolored.
None of this technical perfection limits the liveliness of the strip. Butler's eye for body language and expression are brilliant, and her gift for showing motion in a static medium could put some animators to shame. Any single panel could be the highlight of an illustrator's portfolio. And meeting the most essential quality for comic art, it's all an essential part of the story. The art is so good that its quality actually becomes invisible in the reading, giving the story physical and emotional weight and I'd even swear a soundtrack without ever jarring a reader into noticing that hand is awfully well done, or a perspective seems to be warped. 4th Dimension Entertainment seems to realize what they've got, too; Volume One is given the polished treatment usually reserved for artbooks, and it shows off Butler's gorgeous work to great adavantage.
Lackadaisy is available online at www.lackadaisycats.com; there's even extra material since the publication of the first volume, though never nearly enough. But do yourself a favor and pick up Lackadaisy: Volume One in print, too; it's a beautiful collection of a fantastic series.
13 June 2009
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