§ April 26th, 2004 § Filed under Uncategorized Comments Off on

Couscous Express by Brian Wood and Brett Weldele has been a consistent seller at our store…it’s seems I’m ordering more copies every week, and yet, despite its high sales, I really had absolutely no idea what it was about. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t have the time or money to read nearly as many comics as I used to, and that means I’m probably missing a lot of good stuff.

I’m sorry I missed this book for so long. Like Last of the Independents, it’s a simple and fast-paced story, an action movie with just enough depth to the characters to keep the story moving. Olive is a sixteen year old girl who delivers food for her parents’ restaurant, and finds herself stuck in a battle to protect her family from her mother’s ex-boyfriend and the group he leads, the Turkish Scooter Mafia.

Turkish. Scooter. Mafia.

Who would have thought those three words, put together in that particular order, could bring such joy? It sounds nuts, but it works perfectly in the context of this story. It’s wonderfully absurd, and gives us an scooter gun battle action sequence that I’m fairly sure that we’ve never seen before.

The writing is nice and sparse, edited down to just what is absolutely necessary. A nice bit of business is when Moustafa, Olive’s “mercenary courier” boyfriend, is talking directly to the reader introducing himself and his thoughts on Olive, he’s interrupted by his business partner Special. Special realizes that Moustafa is speaking directly to the reader, and takes it in stride…you’d think that this would knock you out of the fictional reality of the story, but instead it emphasizes the B-movie it’s-all-for-fun feel. It’s tells you, look, here’s the relationship/character exposition, let’s just get it out of the way so we can get to the action.

There is some level of emotional depth to the story, however…mixed in with the action is the real story of Olive’s emotional growth. She begins the story hating her parents, believing they are dumping too much work on her and being tired of them telling her how easy she has it now compared to when they were kids. You know, typical angry teenager stuff. It’s as she begins to fight to protect her parents that she learns that her “spoiled brat” attitude needs to be discarded in favor of a more mature perception of her family…though her brattiness seems to be more refocused than lost, aimed (in a deadly fashion) at her family’s enemies instead.

There’s a unique look to the art…the characters are roughly delineated, but all are instantly recognizable. Characters and backgrounds alike are all heavily toned with zip-a-tone dot patterns, except for the first few and last pages in greytone. It’s a nice look…takes a second to get used to it, but it is very appealing.

An aside, about AiT/Planetlar’s books in general rather than just Couscous Express specifically, though it applies to this book as well…pal Dorian did a little rearranging of the bookshelves at the store to make a mini-display of AiT/PL’s releases, and he noted just how well-designed the covers are. They really grab the eye, and having a whole bunch grouped together is really hard to miss. The designs are simple and similar — limited color, title printed on a solid color or black stripe background — but they’re really attractively done. Quite a switch from looking at the superhero comics rack.

Altogether, it’s a nice package…sharp writing, attractive art, and a unique setting and plot…and, not to mention, the Turkish Scooter Mafia. How can you go wrong?

Comments are closed.