Review: ‘Cindy & Biscuit – End Of Level’ – More Perfection With One Girl And Her Dog
by Richard Bruton
Just 16 pages, 16 images, but it’s 16 pages of wonderful comic making as Dan White returns to the world of Cindy and Biscuit after our hero’s survived one of the most trying challenges of her young life, her first year at the big school!
As with every Cindy & Biscuit, White gives you action and adventure that’s so pure and joyous, but also does that thing he does so well and cuts against the joy with a subtle dash of sadness to make a comic with a depth that gets right into your heart.
Another Cindy & Biscuit comic, another well-deserved 10 out of 10 for one of the most wonderful comics you’ll read.
Just as day comes after night or spring leads into summer, I will guarantee you that news of a new Cindy & Biscuit comic will fill me with a delight, not to mention a need to read it as soon as I possibly can. It’s been like that ever since I first entered the wonderful world of Dan White’s rebellious, brave, misunderstood child and her loyal dog pal Biscuit.
The concept’s gloriously simple – Cindy’s the girl, Biscuit’s the dog, and together they head out on adventures to make the world safer for you and me, keeping away the monsters, the aliens, the nightmares, the killer robo-things, and anything else that needs a damn good smack with a strong stick (‘good soldier’ as Cindy always describes them.) But alongside the adventure White’s always managed to fill these comics with a hint of darkness, alluding to the sadness of Cindy’s life. She’s a bit of a loner, not popular at school, a mother who might not be the best. It’s never made clear, but it’s there in the background, just enough to give the comics a dash of the melancholy – done so perfectly by White.
Now, over the years we’ve seen many different aspects of Cindy’s life and slowly and surely seen her get older, something that rather worries everyone reading these comics (or should) because surely an older Cindy may well lose some of the fanciful, wonderful dreamer qualities that are such an integral part of her character.
White’s already teased part of the growing up already, on the final page of Cindy & Biscuit Sundays, where we have this moment to stop us in our tracks…
Yes, Cindy’s off to secondary school, making her about 10/11 years old, leaving behind the childhood innocence of primary school. Does this mean that she’ll be leaving behind her adventures as she heads into the world of school as a pre-teen?
Well, this is where we really start to find out. End of Level has just 16 pages, with each page a single image, big and bold, showing Cindy in action. It’s totally dialogue-free, the only words being the captions that come in the form of her Year 7 school report (year 7 being the first year of secondary school here in the UK)…
As the pages go on, the words and images play together, the tone of the report slightly chiding, criticising Cindy’s character at school, the exact same character that we see beating the crap out of a procession of monsters, each subtle criticism of Cindy at school turned on its head as Cindy defeats yet another threat to humanity…
Whether it’s robots or mini ninjas, a six-armed alien type or a purple spider thingy, there’s just so much to enjoy in watching the way White choreographs the action, simple forms so full of life and movement.
But against it all, there’s the school report, the little criticisms that you imagine Cindy hears all the time at school (not to mention at home) – high-spirited, always rushing headlong into things, running into obstacles, needs to develop her group work skills, needs to connect with her peers… it’s all the sort of thing our poor lonely, brave Cindy has heard again and again.
And then you get to this…
And you realise that Cindy’s troubles are continuing at school, that she’s still going to be that misunderstood kid in the class who doesn’t get on with the other kids too well, doesn’t really have that many friends, is probably ignored by the teachers in the main – and you realise that White’s done it again, made you sad for Cindy whilst also appreciating all that she does for the world. She’s made it to the end of a tough year, made it to the end of the level… and she’s survived dammit.
Again, not a surprise for me that a 16-page comic by Dan White with essentially just 16 panels could be a book that’s so full of emotion – joy, excitement, AND sadness, and all wrapped up in magnificent artwork. But hey, that’s Dan White’s Cindy & Biscuit every time.
Previous reviews of White’s work here at Comicon include Sticky Ribs, Terminus, Cindy & Biscuit: Sundays, and Cindy & Biscuit: Year One.
Cindy & Biscuit: End Of Level, as well as many of his other great comics – Terminus: Rabbit Season, Duck Season – The Collected Strips or Sticky Ribs – are available in various digital/print formats at his shop – and be sure to stop by his website, Twitter, and subscribe to the Silence! Podcast.