Justin du Coeur (jducoeur) wrote,
Justin du Coeur

TRoOB: Funny Animal Edition

And now, for no particular reason except that I happen to feel like it, a couple of reviews of current comics. The first is one of the better long-running anthropomorphic comics; the second, the long-awaited return of the great Teri Wood...

Shanda the Panda has been going for years, thriving (IMO) more despite its funny-animal roots than because of them. Like most typical anthropomorphics, this comic is a slice of real life that just happens to be inhabited by talking animals of pretty much every species. But that fact is very nearly irrelevant: while the characters are somewhat totemic of their species, it's the characters themselves that shine through.

This book is probably best recommended for those who are fond of Strangers in Paradise, because they share some of the same flavor: well-told soap operas of good folks. Our heroine, Shanda (who is, of course, a Panda) runs the local movie theater. She is attempting to balance relationships with her girlfriend Terri (a cricket) and boyfriend Double-R (a badger). The story has its villains (in particular, the thoroughly evil Wing, a rich Chinese Panda who was spurned by Shanda and does not take it well), but oddly, despite the funny ears everyone has, this is one of the best stories of real people dealing with real life currently being written. Stories are mostly about work, love, family and trying to get along in a world that never works quite as well as anyone might wish. (And unlike SiP, it doesn't spend its time getting distracted with crime drama.)

It's not one of my *very* favorite books, but I do always appreciate it -- it's a fine antidote to the theatrics of most comics. Call it a solid "B", with a particular recommendation to people who like their fictional lives real...

I first came across Teri S. Wood most of 20 years ago, in the pages of Amazing Heroes, then the best magazine about comics. She had a four-panel strip called The Cartoonist, which was -- well, pretty strange and rather silly. But it was consistently funny, and well-written -- not an easy thing for a brief once-a-month strip. So I've kept an eye on her ever since.

Rhudiprrt was the first full-length comic she did, with Dwight Decker. It wasn't perfect, but it was pretty interesting, one of the odder pieces of high fantasy I've seen. The concept goes something like this:

Warren Shaffer is a war hero, at the end of his life. He's had a good life, and goes peacefully, with just one wish: to be reunited with his beloved cat in the afterlife. His wish is heard by the goddess Ilura, and then things start to get strange. He is "reincarnated" in the body of Rhudiprrt, the feeble-minded young prince of Thrallmar. The political situation of this anthropomorphic world (inhabited, of course, by cat-people) is finely balanced to begin with, and the emergence of the no-longer-dimwitted prince throws of the equations off. And so he finds himself trying to hold things together and rescue his new world from falling into complete war.

I'm not going to claim that this one's a classic -- it is "just" a fantasy story, and doesn't break radical ground. But it's fun, and well-written, and not as predictable as most of the genre. And now it's back: after several years away from the medium, Teri has picked up the story where it left off, doing both the writing and art this time. It's a good ride, and already showing the fact that she's a more experienced writer than either she or Decker were the first time around. Again, a good B, recommended for fantasy fans.

(And a side-note: the story she originally left Rhudiprrt for was Wandering Star, and that is a classic: a quiet science fiction story of a woman and a ship caught in the middle of great things. That's A- work. Frankly, the reason I'm most encouraged to see her back in comics again is that I *desperately* want to see her move on Darklight, her next major epic, a very personal-looking story of home and magic...)

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