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The Book of Boy Trouble Volume 2

A 100-page anthology, Green Candy Press, 2008.
Buy from Amazon.

Category: humor, slice-of-life.

Author(s): Howard Cruse, Robert Kirby, Victor E. Hodge, Dave Ortega, David Kelly, Jon Macy, Andy Hartzell, Ed Luce, Bill Roundy, Abby Denson, Tim Fish, Sina Shamsavari, Michael Fahy, Justin Hall, Craig Bostick, Brett Hopkins, Jennifer Camper, Nick Leonard, Steve MacIsaac, Robert Triptow.
Website: no website

It took them two years, but it was worth it: editors Robert Kirby and David Kelly have once more brought together an impressive group of queer artists and writers, this time for all-new stories, and all in color (the previous volume was partly reprints from the zines days, and only partly in color). As you can see from the authors' list, most of the usual gang is back, with a few newcomers.
A panel by Howard CruseThe book opens with a delicious treat: a one-pager by Howard Cruse, who manages in 8 panels to give us a complete story with believable and moving characters. I wish Cruse had done more than one page, but I'll take what I can get.
Panels by Andy HartzellWhile Cruse's is the shortest contribution, Andy Hartzell's is the longest, with a 12-page story that confirms, if need be, that the author of the excellent Fox Bunny Funny is the kind of artist who can take any seemingly half-baked idea and run with it. This time, he offers a story set in the near future, when the world is in the grip of serious global warming. A young man who has a weird body chemistry which enables him to withstand extreme temperature meets another young man, himself the victim of an even weirder condition. The two form a strong friendship that slowly changes into more, but this off-center world isn't kind to lovers...Hartzell's talent for fleshing out characters and situations, as well as his strongly illustrative style and dense pages, create a completely believable story, and a very moving, unique one. Maybe even more as most of the other contributions are rooted in reality.
A panel by Tony ArenaThat is certainly the case with Robert Kirby's sad story of an infuation gone wrong, with a main character coming too close to the world of a small time criminal, or with Tony Arena's young punk guy being groped anonymously during a concert. That might sound like the stuff of jerk-off dreams, but Arena creates a real sense of discomfort as his still closeted character (whom we remember from previous issues of Boy Trouble) grapples with the situation, divided between "shame and arousal", as the writer puts it. You feel like reaching out to the character to try and reassure him.
Panels by Bostick and KellyFar more upbeat are the contributions of David Kelly and Craig Bostick (alone and together), especially the adaptation of a song called "Punk Rock Boy", which I found utterly charming, as much for the lyrics as for the bright, light art.
Other artists' stories are as good as can be expected: Justin Hall finds another escort's tale to give us, this time complete with a client who has a fetish for Batman and Robin--hilarious and strangely erotic; Tim Fish and Sina do what they do really well, with a fun romance from Fish and an autobiographical story from Sina, who manages to laugh at himself and look too cute to be true at the same time; Michael Fahy, who seem to like lists, shows the humor in the pathetic by creating order out of chaos; and then there are half a dozen more contributions all worth your time and money, like Brett Hopkins who reunites his characters from the previous volume, Steve MacIsaac who keeps on experimenting with narration and bears; Jennifer Camper, who offers a cruel and vengeful story; Robert Triptow who tells the true story of his almost exploding appendix...So many reasons to like this wide-ranging anthology.
And I can't finish this review without mentioning the striking design work, a continuation of the previous volume's, but this time in color. The colored pages, varying for each contribution, are useful but never intrusive, while the old-style typed contributors' information pages look like they're really made to help readers know more about the artists involved. It's a wonderful, attractive package, no pun intended.

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