Quick Rating: Fantastic
Title: The Akiko Quality Assortment
Writer/Artist: Mark Crilley
Editor: Keith Davidsen
In a popular (and very chic) Michigan coffee shop, nine women have taken over a well-lit corner. Calliope is scribbling onto her palm pilot. Daydreaming, Erato is sipping a decaffeinated venti mocha. Terpsichore is out front listening to the street musicians. Euterpe is going through a pile of compact discs which she just purchased at the shop next door. Clio is sulking because no one listens to her anymore. Melpomene is reading the newspaper. Polyhymnia is reading over her shoulder while also trying to get Terpsichore to come inside. Urania is chatting up the barista. Thalia is good-naturedly fending off advances from the college boys at the next table.
Every now and then, the Muses strike, even nowadays. Depending on your opinion of modern American popular culture, you may think that they are very busy flitting about Hollywood or you may believe that the Muses simply refuse to set foot outside of the lonely cabins of a few select writers. In the comic book industry, Muse visits are few and far between. Clio and Polyhymnia show up when you’re creating a pop culture icon, like Superman or Scooby Doo. Euterpe and Terpsichore show up when you’re drawing a page or a panel that will change how people look at comic books. More accurately, they appear months or years beforehand and initiate the process that will lead to great art. The artist gets to sweat it out for awhile on his or her own.
Mark Crilley wandered into that Michigan coffee shop (perhaps it was in Japan instead when he was teaching there- of course that would look more like a scene out of Tampopo) and sat by himself. Maybe he didn’t even notice the table filled with beautiful women. Slowly, they sauntered up to him and whispered in his ear. He didn’t even raise his eyes from his drawing pad.
A few years pass and Akiko has reached its 50th issue milestone. Who would think that a comic book about a girl and some silly looking aliens could be so fantastic? This issue of Akiko continues Mark Crilley’s experimenting with a variety of ways to fill the pages. Sometimes there is a story- sometimes there is commentary- sometimes satire. The artwork is always gorgeous. Akiko 51 contains a variety of short pieces, sending up popular culture and twisting its own characters. Just in Time for Dinner is a punch-line quickie. The Beebles recasts the main characters as another famous quartet. For that matter, My Neighbor Akiko’s Spirited Delivery Service also recasts the main characters in a variety of Hayao Miyazaki films. (Mark Crilley is something of an American expert on the brilliant Japanese animator.) Two Doors is a puzzle picture bearing a story. Akiko at the Age of Eighty is a reminisce with a twist. The style in each tale is unique within the pamphlet, providing wonderful delineation.
I do not think that the Muses can be found attending meetings in corporate offices. They are found in small towns in Michigan in the middle of the night while listening to distant radio stations and considering the floaty bits in their tea. Akiko is written for people who love comic books and can’t remember why.
If you want to know what the future of comics should look like, read Akiko. It is the best comic book out there, bar none.