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Book Review < Back

The Adventures of Barry Ween, Boy Genius vol. 1

Credits: Written and Illustrated by Judd Winick
Publisher: Oni Press

Commentary

Perhaps inspired by the science wizardry of the titular character, reviewers tend to describe THE ADVENTURES OF BARRY WEEN, BOY GENIUS, in mathematical terms. On the back of the first collection alone, we have Calvin and Hobbes + PCP + Mein Kampf, South Park + Dexter's Lab, and Simpsons times 100 divided by...well, you get the idea. And it is true that part of the charm in the book derives from evoking familiar scenarios while adding in just the right amount of vitriol and filth to keep things interesting. To the above equations I'd like to add my own to describe the book; Barry Ween = Funny + Intelligence - Pretension + Surprising Drama + Dick Jokes.

But they're GREAT dick jokes.

Barry is a genius unlike any the world has ever seen. One day, if he's interested enough, he'll rule the world. But for now, he's just a kid, whose life includes a dim but loyal friend and parents more clueless still, a girl he kinda likes and kinda like-likes, and the occasional unfortunate universe-rending science catastrophe. Winick is both writer and artist, maintaining an extremely brisk pace reminiscent of the best imagination-fueled comic strips such as Bloom County and Calvin and Hobbes - but, after only a few pages, it clearly establishes its own identity.

This first collection lacks the surprisingly powerful drama of the extended stories in later editions, but it makes up for it with the sheer elephantine weight of jokes-per-page. Particularly effective is the at first inexplicable friendship between Barry and his best pal Jeremy, who seems more fascinated by the very act of cursing than by what the words actually represent. Jeremy takes Barry completely at face value, as is, and their relationship provides both the biggest laughs and the truest emotional moments.

A perfect example of a funny comic that's actually funny. And then some.

-- Gail Simone

 


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