How long do you think you can keep a 2-page per week comic, featuring the maniacal exploits of a gang of woodland animals, going? Well, if you’re as talented, creative and all-round funny as Jamie Smart, the answer is six years plus and counting. Bunny Vs. Monkey has appeared in every single issue of The Phoenix Comic here in the UK. And has been delighting children across the country with its ridiculous cartoon action, surreal weirdness, ridiculous plots, manic characters, and great smatterings of silly.
The fabulously funny, ridiculous, and often surreal adventures are collected in half-yearly installments, and thanks to Scholastic Grafix, they’re now available in the USA. Trust me, it’s a book children adore.
This might be a tale of delightful woodland creatures, but it’s certainly no Winnie The Pooh. Unless you gave the residents of the 100 Acre Wood a massive sugar rush, force-fed them E-numbers, and let them loose to cause chaos.
Bunny just wants a simple, quiet life, but that was shattered a long time ago when Monkey catapulted (literally… although he was meant to be space-bound as part of a strange science experiment) into the woods and any hopes of a quiet life swiftly vanished. Over the episodes, the supporting cast has become increasingly involved, and they’re a wonderful crowd.
There’s poor, put-upon Bunny, manic monkey, the potential arch-nemesis Skunky, complete with a never-ending supply of strange, take-over the woods inventions, sweet but dumb as a bag of spanners Pig & Weenie, mysterious Le Fox, monosyllabic stunt-thingy Action Beaver, and Metal Steve. Every one of them gets a look in, everyone has their own wonderful character and they all manage to make you giggle and guffaw at least once per strip. It’s all very wonderfully manic and silly, Smart’s big cartooning style and ability to deliver gag after gag across just 2-pages makes BvM a comedic delight. And every so often, rather magnificently, Smart will change things up, adding a surprising layer of emotion, sadness, melancholy, to the sugar-rush action.
But the real star here is Smart’s dialogue, the way he lays gag upon gag, silliness after silliness, to the strip, it’s simply a joy to read:
Each two-page spread follows an often familiar pattern, either Monkey causing mayhem, or increasingly, Skunky and his maniacal machinery and insane inventions running riot. But even though it’s got a pattern, Smart’s inventive ideas, his sense of the surreal, a command of consistently fast and hilarious dialogue keeps it all feeling fresh.
It’s all turned up very knowingly to 11, but the intensity of the gags never becomes too much, as Smart’s way too clever a cartoonist, producing strip after strip of delightful, insane, ridiculous screwball comedy. To get the comedic timing right, again, and again, and again takes some skill, and it’s all due to Smart controlling everything with extreme precision, even when creating some very unusual page layouts. The inspired chaos you see on page after hilariously funny page is only made possible and so ridiculously daft because Smart is in absolute control of what he’s doing, all his pieces arranged with fine precision.
Bunny Vs. Monkey is a wonderfully fun and funny all ages comic. Children love the action and manic moments, and they’re also quick to pick up on the ridiculous wordplay through the book. And there’s the occasional poop gag, always a winner. It’s a ridiculously silly, magnificently funny book.
Jamie Smart‘s Bunny Vs Monkey is published weekly in The Phoenix Comic in the UK. Three collected volumes are available through David Fickling Books in the UK, and Scholastic Grafix in the USA.
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