Tuesday, August 28, 2012

"The Monsters Meet on Court Street" by Batton Lash (2012)

And now for something completely different; I was never much of a fan of comic books as a kid- except for Illustrated Classics and the Human Torch; for some odd reason he really got to me.  But, this latest offering, by veteran comic artist/writer Batton Lash, has a unique and hip premise to it. Monsters, just as people do, sometimes find themselves in need of legal counsel. And where do they go for this type of service? Well, if you’re a New York based monster, particularly if you are indicted in Kings County; or Brooklyn; then Court Street is the logical place. These people; the lawyers as well as the “monsters”; all have the same problems and dramas of us real life folks.

The series concerns the adventures of defense attorneys Jeff Byrd and Alanna Wolff, of the firm Byrd and Wolff, whose specialty is delivering top notch defense for monsters who may find themselves in legal difficulties. Mostly, this is the result of a misunderstanding of the nature of monsters by those other pesky creatures, “human beings.”
In the first case which opens this book, Ms. Wolff is defending a Frankenstein looking fellow named Fritz, who in spite of his legal troubles is overtly concerned with eating lunch. This little twist puts a comical twist on things as the reader wonders just what, or whom, Fritz would like to eat for lunch. His crime was scaring a lab assistant when he suddenly came to life in the laboratory. Ms. Wolff argues; in an almost politically incorrect fashion; that, as the lab assistant was wearing stiletto heels and a revealing blouse, what response did she expect when this dead man came back to life?

While dealing with these types of cases, the two attorney’s assistants, Mavis and Corey, are busy not only providing support for the defense team, but with their own personal lives as well. The cast of characters includes the somewhat mysterious Charles Hawkins, another attorney; of dubious character; who is in love with Ms. Wolff. Their relationship serves as a sideshow to the main adventures as you wonder just what; if anything; he is up to, and how it will affect Ms. Wolff and her partner, not to mention their clients. Hawkins left Brooklyn’s Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood 25 years ago for the tonier clientele offered by Manhattan’s Park Avenue. To me, he seemed immediately suspect; but of what, I could not say.
The book is composed of a current, or new adventure, and also features some of the past exploits of the Counselors of the Macabre, such as “The Appeal of the 800 Lb., Gorilla.” In this case, the attorneys find themselves at odds with their own client, Nicky Gorillo. He has lost his case and Ms. Wolff is handling his appeal when Nicky goes "ape". In the end he is exposed (literally) for what he really is; a thug with a simian mentality. I really enjoyed the dialogue in this one, as it reminded me of so many of the “mobsters” portrayed on TV and in movies.

This collection is the sixth in “The Supernatural Law” series by Batton Lash and his team of artists and editors, and the first foray by me into the world of illustrated literature. Comic books have a long history of being beneath mainstream literature, but these are not the simple comic books of my youth, and in some respects, can be even more difficult to navigate than your average novel. (I’m a big non-fiction reader, so this was really a pleasant “stretch” for me.) It actually takes a bit more attention to the unwritten details to “get” the whole story. This was a big surprise for me; you don’t have to write like Tolstoy in order to convey a story.
The Supernatural Law series is a unique and fun way to delve into the world of “illustrated literature”; it would seem disrespectful to refer to them as mere “comic books”, as they have a dimension lacking in that genre. As I said, as a veteran, and inveterate, reader, this was something new and different for me, and I have to say it was a pleasurable excursion.

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