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Fox Bunny Funny
posted October 21, 2007
 

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Creator: Andy Hartzell
Publishing Information: Top Shelf, soft cover, 104 pages, June 2007, $10
Ordering Numbers: 9781891830976 (ISBN13)

imageThis compulsively readable series of escalating comics short stories may put some in the mind of similar debuts of still sort-of recent vintage by Graham Annable and John Kerschbaum. Like Annable, it's clear that cartoonist Andy Hartzell has an appealing, stylized form of presentation that boasts a certain level of craft chops as its backbone. Comparable to Kerschbaum's work, Fox Bunny Funny is odd and unsettling and even lacerating when it comes to laying out the uglier aspects of the human condition, both by way of its story details but also in drawing on the cartoonist's ability to bolster the disturbing moments through qualities of the art. It's not a debut, really, but I imagine for a lot of people Fox Bunny Funny will act as a statement book of the kind that will send them scrambling for his beautifully packaged mini-comics and other previous work.

A silent comic, Fox Bunny Funny has us follow an anthropomorphic fox through their world of institutionalized exploitation of abuse from fox onto to the bunny. We quickly learn our identity figure sympathizes with the bunnies to the point of wanting to adopt bunny characteristics. We see the open murder and consumption of bunnies or the reflection of such acts in several set pieces that play up the humor of adorable characters committing atrocities, and eventually march with the character into a moment of transcendence regarding this situation, and leave the book bathed in their resulting happiness. The journey is more fun than the destination, the deliberate pacing and the design chops that come slipping out in a few really knock 'em dead moments like a two-page cityscape spread. Once you catch your breath, the message at the book's heart may feel less universal than generic, a fable of identity that suggests we may be trapped in physical circumstances that are very different than the true selves we suspect we may be. This becomes more greatly shaded to a slight extent by the last few pages and the relationships depicted in those city scenes, but even that feels like noise more than a metaphorical build. I certainly look forward to the next book, where I hope to find a better match between the complexity of the themes explored and the intricacies of Hartzell's comics-making.

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