by Glen Weldon
Rex Libris, titular hero of James Turner's smart, stylish and breathlessly paced comic series, is a custodian of great and terrible secrets who must perforce do endless battle 'gainst those who would seek to corrupt, destroy or abscond with the collected lore of the ages.
Which is to say: He's a public librarian.
Rex Libris: Book of Monsters, the second volume chronicling his feats of derring-do among the Dewey decimals, is in stores now.
Why you should check it out (heh) after the jump. (Because..."check it out" ... library .... )
Rex has seen a lot over the years, and done a lot and read a lot. That beefy, flat-topped guy in the toga behind the checkout desk at the library of Alexandria? Yeah, that was him.
So he takes his current responsibilities heading up the Middleton Public Library very seriously. Seriously enough to travel to outer space (in the first volume) to collect an overdue book from an evil alien tyrant bent on all the usual things that evil alien tyrants get bent on.
In Volume 2, Rex finds himself sucked into an illustrated encyclopedia of monsters — into page 43, "The Kraken," to be exact — and must fight his way through the book's many fanged, tentacled and/or zombified entries in search of a missing library patron.
But fear not, true believers: Rex has read enough to know every beastie's weak spot, so he takes that bit of it in stride. (What really roasts his giblets, though, is the fact that the tome isn't categorized alphabetically.)
Turner tosses off literary jokes, allusions and meta-fictional feints in every panel, and it's precisely that offhand, try-anything-once sense of humor that keeps Rex Libris from collapsing under the weight of its own references.
Turner's computer-generated art — sharp, expressionist angles rendered in blacks, whites and shades of gray-scale — lend the book a cartoony crispness neatly matched to the author's light comic touch.
In a sense, Rex Libris is just good old-fashioned science fiction — except the science in question is Library Science, and the fiction encompasses a cast of characters as big as the Western canon.
So, yeah, seriously: Recommended.
While you're at it, pick up Turner's Warlord of Io, when it gets published. (More on the fate of that book here, if you're up for a long, dispiriting, whither-the-comic-industry story.)