Friday, April 18, 2008


Issue #1 cover

Issue #2 cover

Issue #3 cover

AUTHOR: Matt Anders & Eric Hutchins
ILLUSTRATOR: Micah Farritor
LETTERING: David Hedgecock
PUBLISHER: Ape Entertainment
GENRE: Science Fiction

ISSUES: 1-3 (of 3)
PAGES: 32 pages each
COLOR: Full color

Charlie and his friends are living their happy lives by playing war, while their families are preparing the emergency bomb shelters for the shadow that is the “red scare.” In this LEAVE IT TO BEAVER world, the danger is not from a communist country, but from a red-skinned, yellow-blooded alien race of beings.

A deal was struck and treaties signed. The good guys were supposed to destroy the alien technology in their possession, and in trade for doing so the aliens agreed not to invade the blue planet. The great government did not hold up its bargain, choosing instead to hide the alien weapon in a barn in the Midwest. The barn was supposed to be haunted, said the locals.

Telling kids to stay away from a building because it is haunted never works. Eventually, some daredevil kid makes his or her way inside. Charlie did just that, but when he accidentally found the technology, he made off with it, setting off alarms with the Army and the aliens. Now Charlie and his friends must find a way to give the bomb back and stop the destruction of the entire planet.

I am not the first to see the LEAVE IT TO BEAVER connection here. If the writing did not give that away the art surely would. WHITE PICKET FENCES has a retro feel that is reminiscent of early American comics … well in a manner of speaking. It is the art, and not the story, that gives this title its unique appeal. With a white washed feeling, subdued colors and pencil work, WHITE PICKET FENCES stands out among other titles. The writing certainly accentuates this by creating a 1950’s apocalyptic world.

At one point in issue #1, Charlie lies to his father and says he and his friends are going to city hall to see what is going on. His father replies: “That’s great, son. I’m happy that you are taking an interest in what’s going on in your town.” This ideology goes back to early America. Schools were originally designed to create civically minded citizens, a goal that has continued to present day. We could see Charlie having a Huckleberry Finn transition from seeing the world as a boy, to becoming a symbol of strength and courage.

WHITE PICKET FENCES views the world from a certain political perspective. When the device is stolen by Charlie, the weapon is activated and destroys a satellite in space. This alerts the aliens and the army, who in turn invades and occupies the town with tanks and armed soldiers. The people are terrified. Even Charlie’s next door neighbor who saluted the soldiers as they came into town ended up hiding in his bomb shelter.

The army and the government are portrayed as corrupt on an administrative level, but the boys on the ground, the soldiers, are seen as kind but incompetent. An 11-year-old boy is able to make his way into the barn where it all began by simply distracting the soldiers guarding it.

So is WHITE PICKET FENCES a metaphor for the Iraq War and the occupation therein? I do not know. Certainly a teacher could use this comic as a way to talk about current events, but I would be cautious about somehow presenting the war from a particular political viewpoint, unless the opposite view is also represented. Teachers are facilitators of learning and should encourage children to discover truth on their own.

If a teacher were to use WHITE PICKET FENCES in the classroom, then he or she would want to consider some other issues as well. There are several incomplete sentences with implied cursing such as “you son of a …”. The alien uses a translator that, in a very obscure way, also implies cursing.

The 1950s culture is also appropriately portrayed. The adults smoke and the role of men and women in this period is shown. Women were treated very differently and this book portrays that. Nothing wrong with showing history, but it can offend the sensibilities of some. It would warrant discussion in the classroom.

At the end of each issue is the story of Captain Odyssey, the boys’ comic book hero. It is cute, and adds to the tone of the book, but it could have been written better to tie in to the overarching theme that the writers were attempting. Be that as it may, the female character that appears in issue #3 is nearly naked – Britney Spears kind of naked – and it does not play well for a title that is labeled by the publisher as All Ages. That certainly would hamper a teacher’s ability to use the book in the classroom.

Issue #1, page 4

Issue #1, page 7

Issue #1, page 9

My Rating: Ages 12 and older
Publisher’s Recommendation: All Ages

Overall, this book is fine for kids. Many a child has played army and can relate to the pretend play going on. However, the near nudity at the end of issue #3 is very problematic.

Recommended with Strong Reservations
I have strong reservations because of the hyper-sexualization of women portrayed in the Captain Odyssey section at the end of issue #3. It is too bad, really, because WHITE PICKET FENCES offers an interesting look into our past, present and future all at the same time, making way for good discussions about current political events.

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