Kids. Like women, you can’t live with ‘em. You can’t live without ‘em. When I was a young’un, it was all I could do to keep myself interested. I never was much of a reader, and that wasn’t because I didn’t like stories. I did. It’s just that I had a hard time finding something that truly interested me. Growing up in an era when you were lucky to have six channels on the tube, I’d scour those networks for anything having to do with spacemen, robots, or – you guessed it – giant man-eating bugs. Fortunately for me and every other red-blood male child of my generation, the early to mid-1970’s brought out a wealth of giant bug motion pictures. Giant ants. Giant bees. Giant scorpions. You name it, if it was a bug and some producer could figure out how to enlarge it and put it up on the drive-in movie screens, then there was a giant-sized version of it.
So JUICE SQUEEZERS is pretty much right up my alley. It balances just the right amount of nostalgia, derring-do, and a lack of technobabble. The town has bugs, so who are you gonna enlist to kill ‘em? Why, the kids, of course! After all, the kids are the only ones truly willing to get up close and personal with things that are legitimately creepy-crawly. No self-respecting adult would be caught near them!
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
The boys and girls of Hubert H. Humphrey Elementary School have no problem heading to school early. After all, it’s only by way of a secret friendship with an area teacher – Mr. Kettleborne – that they can do what they love best: hunt bugs! The man uses their talents to the max, sending them under the school into the subterranean world where the critters roam about freely. He has the children setting poisonous traps to rid the town that only a few decades earlier was almost overrun with them. Now, a new family has moved into the valley of Weeville where the bugs reside most; and if they’re allowed to plant a crop and bring it to harvest, then Weeville just might see the likes of a bug invasion they’ve only endured in their worst nightmares!
Man, oh man …
This is exactly the kind of stuff I would’ve loved to have been in my hands as a kid. JUICE SQUEEZERS is the name given to the gang of kids willing to go out and do the dirty work, which is what they do when they’re not studying, playing, or trying to work up the courage to ask the class sweetheart for a much coveted date at the corner convenience store. Created, written, and drawn by David Lapham (who’s been in the biz since the early 90’s), JUICE looks and reads like it has the legs to go the distance. Also, as this appears to be a mini, it’s probably exactly the kind of book that would be great to spring on any young adult in your household.
It effectively rings so many bells about childhood. Kids love bugs (adults generally don’t), so it’s perfectly acceptable to see these boys and girls going on a mission to keep their town free. The opening scenes rings of so much youth angst (the first attraction to the opposite sex; losing one’s contact lenses; not wanting to go home dirty ‘cause you’ll catch ‘Hell’ from your parents). There’s also that element of “being the new kid in town” that runs as an undercurrent as young Billy and his single father are following their family dream to build that special place to call their own … only to find it already occupied by some dastardly bugs!
JUICE SQUEEZERS: #1 OF 4 is published by Dark Horse Comics. The story is written and illustrated by David Lapham; the colors are by Lee Loughridge; the letters are by Nate Piekos of Blambot; and the issue has been edited by Jim Gibbons. The issue bears a cover price of $3.99, and that’s a bargain (so far as I’m concerned) considering the energetic creativity that’s captured on the pages within.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. What I wouldn’t have given for this when I was a kid! When I was young, the most of what I had by way of juvenile fiction at best was a handful of Encyclopedia Brown books and maybe – maybe – some Beverly Cleary (if I was interested). If they’re seriously interested in reading, kids these days have it made: the young adult fiction market continues to explode, and Dark Horse’s latest mini – JUICE SQUEEZERS – taps that same vein. It may seem a bit young to most, but its heart is definitely in the right place, thanks to David Lapham’s snappy prose and simply artwork. To paraphrase Indiana Jones: “Bugs?! Why did it have to be bugs?!”
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Dark Horse Comics provided me with a digital reading copy of JUICE SQUEEZERS: #1 OF 4 by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.