The comic book Knights of the Dinner Table is primarily a bunch of buddies sitting at a table and playing games -- but what happens when several of them sit around a table and talk about books? This is the premise and setting of Knights of the Dinner Table: The Java Joint. This collect all the Java Joint strips from the gaming magazine Black Gate, with an extra one thrown in.

The Java Joint is set at, well, the Java Joint, a coffee shop in Indiana where every week "The Java Joint Fantasy-Sci Fi Book Club is in session." It's members are: Sara, who tends to act as both intellectual and goody two-shoes; Eddie, who skims more than he reads, is perpetually poor, and often misses the point being made; and Patty, who usually sides with Sara but has a mischievous side to her as well. (Early strips have Stevil in the background, commenting to himself about what he overhears.) Most strips have the trio sitting around and discussing (or trying to discuss) a fantasy book; there are a few exceptions, as when Eddie enters into extended dealings with a Nigerian internet scam, or when he confronts Neil Gaiman about stealing all the ideas Eddie wrote in a notebook in seventh grade that got lost at "Sister Eileen's Discount Summer Camp for Laconic Youth."

As with the Knights of the Dinner Table comic, this is about the dialogue, as the art is very static (mostly the same characters in the same positions, with only the eyes or mouth changing). Fortunately, this is often very funny. Most of the humor comes from Eddie who, like Cartman on South Park, is a character you seldom agree with but usually laugh at. He has a resistance to anything out of the ordinary ("So what you're saying is... reading books I don't like will get men women?"), loves a Danielle Steel novel after imagining the main character as a vampire, and bemoans the supernatural in romance novels. ("Publishing today is all about getting hot and heavy with the unholy.") Sara and Patty work mainly as the voice of reason, continually frustrated trying to discuss great books with a guy who's more excited about watching sci-fi shows.

The Java Joint does have a fairly static setting, and seeing Sara and Patty dealing with Eddie's bizarre logic and thoughts can get repetitive. But The Java Joint also has plenty of laughs -- and a surprisingly touching final story. This is an enjoyable little comic book collection that's a nice read for anyone who likes discussing books -- even with that one person who always manages to go off in a bizarre direction.

Overall grade: B
Reviewed by James Lynch

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