Review of Zot!: The Complete Black-and-White Collection: 1987-1991 by Scott McCloud

 Zot!: The Complete Black-and-White Collection: 1987-1991 Cover ImageZot!: The Complete Black-and-White Collection: 1987-1991 by Scott McCloud

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Having read Scott McCloud‘s later treaties on comics and their form & function I snatched up this collection of his earlier superhero comics when I saw it on the shelf at the library.

The book is divided up into two parts: Heroes & Villians, and The Earth Stories. For me, Part Two was far superior to Part One.

As Mr. McCloud would say: “comics are a medium not a genre”; and I think in Part One he was still figuring that out. As these are “The Black and White Collection” we’re missing out on the first 10 or so issues of Zot! and I never really felt like we got the exposition we needed to fill us in. Zot! is a teenage superhero of his Earth. He travels to our Earth and is dating Jenny. They adventure back and forth from the mundane (a good thing!) to the idyllic. For me, I like to know the ins & outs of my superhero. All I knew of Zot!’s (or Zach as he’s called sometimes) was that he could fly (anti-grav gizmos?) and had a stun gun that frequently ran out of shots (later he gets an invisibility device too). Also, nothing of his ‘origins’ until many issues in when we learn his parents were killed (and that’s why he lives with Uncle Max) (insert joke about a hero’s dead parents here).

Once the portal to the other dimension is closed, and we begin Part Two: The Earth Stories, the black & white pages really started to gleam. “Looking for Crime” (#29) was a great bridge as it still featured Zot!, but in this case he was trying really hard to be a crime-fighter and he just couldn’t find any crime to fight in New York City. “Autumn” (#30) opens with a beautiful splash page of Zot! and Jenny landing in her backyard, but that’s about it for the super-heroics in that this is Jenny’s Mom’s feature. Wonderful nostalgia and reminisces on her part help us experience the world as she sees it: a frustrated mother and wife dealing with regrets of her past, and hopes for her future. The next two stories, “Clash of Titans” and “Invincible” are the weakest of the single character stories, in my opinion, but never the less feature real kids dealing with their lives. “Normal” & it’s follow-up were well done, irregardless of the fact that they were one of the earliest depictions of homosexual teens in near-mainstream comics. The nuances he included were palpable. The gimmicky ending has me laugh out loud too. The twisted metaphors of Jenny finally going into Zot’s box I won’t comment on. And, I won’t say anything about the final issue of the run, I’ll leave a little suspense in the collection for you. I will say Mr McCloud that when you complete your next work of fiction you’ll have yourself another reader.

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