Pros: Painfully real, addicting strip; elevates the genre
Cons: Proof that copy editing should be among the highest paid professions
The most notable thing about the two 'Leonard & Larry' books I've read is that both have some remarkably tragic or deep moments, really heart-rendering, eyes-watering stuff, and
it's in a comic strip
I keep going back and re-reading those parts.
I have no explanation for this sort of masochism other than that Tim Barela's work is just very, very real, and you return to the 'poignant' moments in the books just as you would to real-life equivalents.
It's part soap opera, part sit-com; Leonard and Larry are a nearing-middle-age gay couple living in West Hollywood. They're likable, and the supporting cast of friends and family are as real as any non-comix group. Southern Californians will particularly appreciate the realistic depiction of themselves, from the relaxation of Temecula to the 'behind the Orange curtain' phenomenon. His drawing style is clean and consistent -- there are a few inclusions of very early strips at the start of the book, and Barela's talent is obvious -- and WeHo looks exactly like it does in person. ('Larry' owns a shop on Melrose, and it is so painfully on target that it might as well be a real-life thing.)
And the same goes for the situations. Few people, gay or straight, will not find themselves identifying with the 'Leonard and Larry' world. Domesticity isn't always pretty, but its shortcomings are -- as in the real world -- eclipsed by the benefits.
I wish I'd discovered this strip earlier, since the inescapable conclusion -- a happy, lasting gay relationship and life is, while not the easiest path, quite possible -- would have been very useful for some friends while they'd been struggling to make it out of the closet, and
Tim Barela can't spell very well at all. Painfully so. I have to assume that any proofreader he may've used just threw in the towel. 'Softwear' was one of the more entertaining, but it does distract to run into so many.
There are repeated sequences with dead composers (see the title of his second collection, 'Mozart and Kurt Cobain are Both Dead') appearing in odd dream-like visions. While interesting, and creative, it doesn't quite work -- the complete realism is really abruptly, almost irritatingly interrupted with these relatively inexplicable sequences.