Longtime followers of this blog (well, both of you) will remember that I am a huge fan of Chris Onstad's Achewood, and have reviewed Dark Horse's previous two hardcover collections here and here. And just in time for Christmas, and to be at the very bottom of my backlog which as of this entry will be finally cleared, Volume 3 has arrived.
Volume 3 continues the reprinting of Achewood's early years, including the second major arc the strip went through--the eternally depressed Roast Beef fleeing for the moon and only being wooed back by his love for the TV show Cheers (I am not making this up) in addition to a cast member getting shot, another cast member being possessed by the spirit of Billy Idol, the coining of the neologism "rad chiles," original text pieces written by Onstad and a collection of earlier Achewood strips (pre-what Onstad considers to be the beginning of the strip proper) and a running commentary from Onstad reflecting on his work in various oblique and often hilarious ways.
As these are still the early days of Achewood, while Onstad is growing closer to fleshing out his cast and experimenting with longer-form storytelling, in general we're still very close to Achewood's early days as a surreal strip about animals in Calfornia crazy as hell, and this means that rather than Achewood as it is now (wherein in the longer-form stories, weeks can go by without a major gag in the classic sense) so even in longer-form stories things will stop for a laugh in each installment.
In terms of the art, Onstad is getting a bit more ambitious--panels are larger and there's more detail as he reaches closer and closer to the Achewood style we know today where the surreal humour is often concomitant with ambitious panel design and storytelling flourishes. We're not at "Cartilage Head" or "Lash of Thanatos" territory just yet, but these are the first stirrings of Achewood evolving into something other than Just Another Webcomic.
In short, I highly recommend this book. For those of you new to Achewood, the continuity is still formless enough to be able to get in on and some of the jokes are inspired/insane enough to stick in your mind for years and years (hell, "Rad chiles" became a notorious joke and it was just an alternate take of a strip.) and it's well worth your time to check out.