Best Of British: Welcome To Oddleigh’s Very Knowing Comedy

by Richard Bruton

Join Chief Inspector Jessie and Sergeant Sid for some unusual new cases in Oddleigh, a town with more than its fair share of strange happenings. Tor Freeman’s laid back and downright funny book brings the strange and the laughs in equal measure, and joins the ranks of those all-ages books that rank among the Best of British.

In the five short tales inside Welcome To Oddleigh, we get to follow the police as they investigate haunted old houses, cultish caterpillars, mysterious dinosaur appearances, a rather more disturbing than it should be trip to the dentist, and a spot of bodyguarding those ‘no good, spoiled fame-monkey‘ types. Each tale is short, but with Freeman’s dense cartooning style, there’s no shortage of reading here, and thanks to her comedic style, great turns of phrase, and knack for bringing out the surreal, it’s a fine looking, funny-reading book.

Page 1, first half…sets the scene, the tone, and the style perfectly. The Chief and Sid get cracking on the cases, but really they’re just a chance for Freeman to throw them into weirdness and pile on the gags. No complaints at all about that. And the gags are great, a lot of really good timing going on, as well as wonderful little visual things going on, where Freeman just adds little things to make the gag work beautifully. But, mostly, the funny comes from Freeman playing with words and ideas, such as this, where the Chief and Sid are taking time to investigate the strange goings-on with the ‘cocoonies’, Oddleigh’s very own cult of caterpillars (because, hey, why the heck not?) After a little preamble, we’re walked right into this fabulous little exchange…

Freeman does know how to structure a great gag, visually and verbally. The silly of the sweet little caterpillars thinking of world destruction, immediately undercut with the innocent invitation of “Cake?“, plus seeing the contrasting looks on the Chief and Sid’s faces… comedy gold.

But, there’s nothing better in Welcome To Oddleigh than these three perfect panels as the Chief heads off to the dentist…

Yes, an example of just a little bit of very knowing comedy there, not something Freeman overdoes, but when it’s there, it’s very clever, very funny, and very good.

Tor Freeman illustrates books for children and won the 2017 Observer/Cape/Comica Short Story Graphic Prize. Welcome To Oddleigh, by Tor Freeman is published by Bog Eyed Books. Go to their website for more great graphic novels (with plenty of laughs) by Gary Northfield, Sarah McIntyre, Jim Medway, Alexander Matthews & Wilbur Dawburn.

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