Penny Arcade Volume 2: Epic Legends Of The Magic Sword Kings
by Jerry Holkins & Mike Krahulik
reviewed for GamePolitics by Ryan Sharpe
When Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins, better known as Gabe and Tycho of Penny Arcade fame, published Attack of the Bacon Robots in January, it was a test run, a sort of feeling-out of what publishing a "real" book was like. (We're ignoring for now the abortive Year One: A Penny-Arcade Retrospective)
Now the lads have returned to the book biz with Epic Legends of the Magic Sword Kings which collects all of the Penny Arcade strips from the year 2001.
As a loyal Penny Arcade reader, it's kind of hard to critique a work to which you've already been exposed. On the other hand, there's a ton of nostalgia to be had just reading through the old strips, many of them with a twinge of humor that can only be gained through hindsight. The hyperbole of yesteryear is made doubly funny today by the fact that it - or something equally ridiculous - actually came to fuition.
Also new is the inclusion of selected posts from the site, chronicling events like the burst of the dot.com bubble and the infestation of Tycho's apartment with rats. Fascinating as they are to read, there are too few of these gems. For the amount of potential material available (the website post for "This Old Base" alone was a comedy goldmine) I longed for more. Of course, Tycho's commentaries for each strip are original material and good for a few laughs to boot.
All of this isn't to say that Epic Legends of the Magic Sword Kings is just about old Penny Arcade strips. While only covering half the time span of Bacon Robots, Kings is almost as thick as its predecessor. The extra pages are taken up by an array of intriguing side projects, most of which haven't yet fully seen the light of day.
"The Boneyard" is an especially exciting section, revealing ideas and stories that one can't help but think would make for some kickass graphic novels. Personally, I would someday like to visit the alternate dimension where "Automata" got the lion's share of Mike and Jerry's creative talents.
For all the new bits and pieces, however, Epic Legends of the Magic Sword Kings feels just a little thin. While the added material is certainly better than the anemic "sketchbook" at the back of Bacon Robots, as one of the lucky few who have seen the entire first "issue" of Over Easy, I know there's more they could have packed into this book.
Then again, if the only criticism that can be leveled against your work is that there isn't enough of it, that's a pretty nice compliment.
By the way, the next book in the series Penny Arcade Vol. 3 The Warsun Prophecies is due out in late November.