Sure, Vol. 2 of You'll Have That by Wes Molebash has been out for weeks now, possibly even months. And yes, I finished the book in less than an hour's reading time about two months prior to this writing. So why is this review so late in coming? Probably because I'm still not sure what I think of it.
To start with, I love You'll Have That. The premise hits home with me as a recently married man and I've been enjoying the non-threatening antics of Andy and Katie ever since I came across them a year or so ago. The comedy, as always, is consistent, fluffy, and sharp and the characters, though nothing conducive to dynamicism, are as lovable and huggable as ever. So why did I feel a sense of betrayal when I finished this, the latest volume in the YHT collection?
If you read more than five webcomics on a daily/weekly basis, you can appreciate that one of the great things about our throwaway medium is that it is just that; easy to throwaway and forget about. By and large, while perusing my pull list from day to day, the update for any given work leaves me wanting more, either from that particular story or from a completely different genre. But with such a varied and diverse list to pull from, including anything from Least I Could Do to The Perry Bible Fellowship and everything in between, I have no trouble getting my fill from the things I pull.
Now take that empty feeling and apply it to an entire printed body of work. It just doesn't leave you with the feeling that you've got something substantial on your hands. And with a brand of comedy that echoes the dulled-edge laughs of a CBS sitcom (where YHT would slot in quite seamlessly), a few supplemental laughs and plot lines help to offer perspective on an otherwise toothless comic strip. Place YHT in the middle of a Beaver and Steve/Looking For Group sandwich, and you’ve got something to add a little spice, a different flavor to the mix. However, flip through the YHT archives by itself and eventually the taste grows stale, possibly even so much that you might not try it ever again. This is the problem I’ve had with the YHT collections thus far.
The quandry I face comes from the strips that show such promise and offer a genuine chuckle or two, even after multiple readings. On page 14, we have a strip that makes great use of good comic timing, in which Andy can do nothing more than stare at Katie as she sits innocently and reads a book with her reading glasses donned. Andy simply remarks, “You look so freakin’ hot in glasses” which she shoots down with a playful, “Easy, tiger”. It’s quick, it’s simple, but it offers more to the setup/punchline combo than simple, “You talk, now I’ll talk, now you talk, and it’s funny” formula most of the other strips make use of.
Though certainly an unfair comparison, every time I pick up a collected body of comic strips I am reminded of the Calvin and Hobbes books I wore out with overreading in my youth. Each of Bill Watterson’s classic volumes shared a name with one of the stories contained within, a short narrative that always consisted of at least twenty strips, offering a great break from the one-shots and still telling a compelling story with a punchline every four panels. The stories that Wes tells are snippets at best, offering very little insight into… anything, really, and doing nothing more than teasing the audience with stories they wish could be told to fruition. When mixed with other stories and one-shots of varying genres and length, this shortcoming is easily glossed over. However, when the work has nothing else to mix with and the strips number no more than 48 pages worth in a book that does NOT release regularly, that shortcoming becomes a glaring omission.
The best way to fully enjoy this collection is to pick it up, randomly pick four strips, read them, enjoy, digest, and put it away. Do the same until you’ve read all the strips, jump to the end and check out the bonus content, including guest strips, original sketches, and behind-the-scenes stories, and you’re done. The long-form stories are few and far between (this collection only contains four, none of which are longer than six strips) and while this accurately represents the day-to-day minutia that comes with being newly wed, it doesn’t really fit well into a printed collection. Read the book like you would the webcomic, enjoy the added content, and you should find enough to justify your purchase.
So where does my final verdict fall? Do I grade this book higher because it is based on the webcomic I’ve come to know and love? Or do I deduct a few points for flaws in the lack of substantial content.? Were the price of admission just one dollar higher, my rating would drop at least a full notch. But for $4.95, I think I can be content to let both sides of my mind win this one.
I give You’ll Have That: Volume 2 six Golden Fists of Justice out of ten.