Hooray for Halloween!

*What? Of course it’s still Halloween. Just look at the date on top of the page. Anyway, since it’s Halloween, I thought I’d do something really appropriate, something that’d totally fit the way in which we celebrate holidays.

In other words, I’m going to review a book tangentially related to Christmas.

Chickenhare: The House of Klaus

This is a 160-page, b&w book from writer/artist Chris Grine, published by Dark Horse. It’s $9.95, and has been out for a few weeks now.

It’s one of those comics that naturally attracts the label ‘all ages,’ though truth be told it’s probably best enjoyed by younger readers; like a number of recent(ish) books featuring the antics of anthropomorphic animal thingies, Chickenhare seems to adopt the flavor and approach of an extended episode of a kids’ cartoon show. Indeed, given the in medias res setup of the book (even if you’ve read the extended online prologue), it feels like an episode from the middle of the show’s run, albeit one that serves to introduce new characters. It naturally concludes with a little mystery, a little hook for showing up for future editions.

The book follows an adventure of Chickenhare, who is half chicken, half hare, all cocksure heroic lead, and his bearded turtle friend Abe, who’s also snarky, but a bit more reserved. They’ve been captured and whisked away to some polar region, where they’re going to be sold to a mad taxidermist named Klaus. Along the way our heroes team up with an arrogant, semi-antagonistic Krampus, a female character that isn’t given much to do, a tribe of beasties collectively called the Shromph, and a dead goat in a top hat an monocle named Mr. Buttons (who, truth be told, is also female, though few characters in the story figure it out). There’s assorted escapes and quick scrapes, a bunch of sarcastic lines of dialogue, and a few winning jokes about devouring human flesh.

Grine has an attractively cute visual style, reminiscent in various ways of obvious forebears like Stan Sakai and Jeff Smith, though his story doesn’t manage nearly as broad a range of appeal; this is very simple, straightforward plotting, every beat clearly telegraphed and every event dutifully set up, the characters as open and obvious about their personalities and intents as possible, so as for minimal complexity. There’s little-to-no kids’ production moralizing (beyond the most basic ‘friends stick together!’), granted, but it’s a frothy, ultra-light book, the events of which seem to have already passed through you by the time you find a space for it on the bookshelf afterward. Still, I’ll cop to enjoying an extended bit with Chickenhead dragging a goat corpse around the tundra and conversing with the beast’s soul; that seems almost like Jodorowsky as transitioned to a kids’ book, and it’s intermittently fascinating to see such odd material folded into so friendly and mild a work.

Here’s the website, if you want to learn more.