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Graphic Novel Review
Welcome once again to the cosy, familiar and yet utterly barmy realm of Wallace and Gromit! The world’s most prolific, cheese-eating inventor, Wallace, and his ever-resourceful dog, Gromit, are back for another bout of the daftest adventures known to man or hound! First appearing in The Sun newspaper, this new collection of over 260 daily comic strips from 2012 to 2013 contains every invention, every cheese-based pun and every act of hi-jinx silliness from the long-running and hugely popular newspaper strip. So put on the kettle, settle down with a plate of cheese and crackers, and celebrate the collected adventures of these two most British cartoon characters...
This volume is not as long as the previous one (112 pages as opposed to 136) and doesn’t contain as many daily strips (260 rather than 320), covering the period June 2012 to February 2013. However, each weekly storyline now runs to seven episodes, up from six, because by this time The Sun had become a seven-day newspaper, its Sunday edition replacing the defunct News of the World. The downside of this is that the stories no longer fit neatly across a double-page spread but spill over by one episode, so many tales begin partway down a page, or are followed by filler artwork. As before, the strips are presented in full colour, courtesy of John Burns.
Scripted by a team of writers consisting of Richy K. Chandler, Mike Garley, Luke Paton, Gordon Volke and David Manley-Leach, many of these exploits revolve around Wallace’s inventions going awry. These include the Moleaway 2000 in “A Mole Lot of Trouble”, the Super Diviner 3000 in “I Drought It”, the Trim-inator 5000 in “Hedge Your Bets”, the Bunting Blaster 6000 in “Lovely Jubilee”, and many other gadgets featuring numbers divisible by 1000!
Some strips branch out into other areas, though. For example, “Surprise, Surprise!” is all about Gromit behaving out of the ordinary, while the dog’s beloved homing pigeons go missing in “A Very British Coo!” Wallace and Gromit find the road ahead blocked by overweight sheep in “Zoombaa Baa” and bake some crackers that are more like hard tack in “Cream Crackered!” In a twist on the familiar theme, Wallace has an idea for a great new invention during the night in “The Dream Machine” but then cannot remember what what it is for, and he faces a complete lack of inspiration in “Inventor’s Block”.
It’s worth keeping in mind when these strips were original published, as some of them were timed to be topical. “Lovely Jubilee” features a street party during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations, while “West Wallaby Street Games” is clearly a tie-in to the 2012 Summer Olympics. It’s Christmas time in “Presents of Mind”, in which Wallace becomes a department store Santa, and in the Clement Clarke Moore inspired “’Twas (Another) Night Before Christmas”. The inventor then tries to lose the weight he put on over the festive period in “Dance Resolution”.
Fans of our heroes’ screen adventures will appreciate guest appearances by wool-shop owner Wendolene Ramsbottom in “Joust Good Friends”, “Surprise, Surprise!” and “The Spider Who Came in from the Cold”. We also briefly see Shaun the Sheep in “Surprise, Surprise!”, while “Joust Good Friends” features the return of Wallace’s comic-strip nemesis Albert Ross.
Some of the plot elements are occasionally overly familiar, such as Wallace and Gromit cleaning windows (as in A Close Shave) in “Pane in the Glass”, encountering yet another unwelcome visitor – in this case a distant cousin of Wallace called Doris – who turfs out poor Gromit (like in The Wrong Trousers) in “Family Tree”, and man and dog carrying out humane pest control (see also The Curse of the Were-Rabbit) in “A Mole Lot of Trouble”.
A more serious problem is that the first episode of the home-decorating escapade “L.A.D.” is missing. In its place is a later episode from the same story. It’s the wrong panel, Gromit, and it’s gone wrong! Hopefully this error, which was present in the review PDF, has been rectified in the finished product. Also, due to the rotating team of artists (Mychailo Kazybird, Sylvia Bull and Jay Clarke), Farmer Sprout looks very different in the story “Crop Circles” than he does in “One Man Orchestra”.
For the most part, though, this is a cracking collection!