Comic Collection Review: Unshelved – Overdue by Gene Ambaum, Bill Barnes & Chris Hallbeck


It is with a sad heart that I bring this volume to The Official Root Beer Party Comic Archives.  Whenever a comic comes to an end, the Archive springs into action and begins the ceremony of preservation.  So today I bring to you the final volume of the Unshelved comic series.

For 14 years we followed the antics of Dewey and the gang of The Mallville Public Library, created by the duo of Gene Ambaum & Bill Barnes in 2002, Unshelved led us on a comic journey, taking on issues such as consumerism and public service to the modern loss of civility and the entitlement of our consumer culture.  We followed our Librarian hero’s as they tackled the mechanizations of government bureaucracy and economic ups and downs.

It was a humorous glimpse at a changing world from the anachronism of the old library systems to the many attempts to keep this essential community function relevant in an ever changing society.  In the end we learn that it is not the books of the library or the technological search engines that drive information, it is the people, the librarians themselves which are the gatekeepers of civilization.

While being a humorous comic strip, Unshelved never lost sight of this core value.  It was always focused on the characters both in front of and behind the counter which are the essence of the institution.  Even in the age of ever changing technology we still have a dire need for those who can find and distill information and give context to flood of data which assaults our senses everyday.


The library is more than just a collection of informational tools and reference materials, it is a modern community center of sorts, providing much needed guidance and relief to people from all walks of life.  even today, the library is still the most democratic of institutions.  They are open to everyone and forgiving of all sorts of social anomolies.

Unshelved captured all the chaos of the library and showed both it’s strengths and it’s shortcomings.  With gentle, albeit sarcastic wit, it showed us that even in our most sacred of collective institutions the human condition is still the focal point of everything that we do.

Dewey has grown from a sarcastic kid to a responsible father, bringing along with him the whimsical and the weird co-workers and patrons and growing together as a community and as a family.  From the perch of his information desk in the cultural hub of civilization, Dewey reflects on our modern culture and shows us an optimistic view of life in the face of absurdity.


It is with great melancholy, that we retire this series to our own library, and the Root Beer Party Monks take this volume and admit it to the vast, cavernous collection assembled through the history of time of all the greatest works of sequential art ever assembled, and this volume reminds us of the generations of people before them who risked everything and dedicated themselves to this most important endeavor, The Official Root Beer Party Comic Archives.

Even as we nod our respect to the men and women of the library system, we are given a new hope.  For Gene Ambaum and Chris Hallbeck, who came in to help with the art in the final year of the strip, have joined forces to bring us a new comic.  A Library Comic which you can find here:

So as we read the final strip and Dewey and his friends go on with their daily lives at the Mallville Public Library unobserved by us, a new group of heroes has risen to the challenge to find the humor of life in the very heart of civilization, the library.

So check out the new comic and read through all the volumes of Unshelved many times in the years to come and keep in mind those who help us to find what we are all searching for, be it information, a timeless work of art, a sense of community or even just a laugh.


You can find copies of Unshelved collections as well as merchandise in their store here:

So until next time True Believers, go down to your local library and just browse around for awhile, remind yourself what this institution really is.  It is a repository of information, a vast collection of the greatest works in human history, but more importantly it is a home to your community.  Until next time True Believers, may your mug always be frosted and your root beer always foamy.


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