When Chris Grine’s “Chickenhare” arrived a few days ago, I was wracking my brains trying to figure out where I’d seen it before.
Was I simply reacting to the “Bone” feeling of the art? No, thanks to the handy press release, I found out it was originally published by Dark Horse. Aha! I’d seen it on the shelves of my local comic shop.
Why on earth didn’t I pick it up? It’s quirky and awesome!
That said, I’m a bit surprised that Scholastic would pick up something so dark and violent for its all-ages Graphix imprint, but it’s a great book for older readers.
For those who have the black-and-white originals, Grine says on his blog that in addition to color, this new edition has some new pages.
In classical mythical proportions, Chickenhare has the upper body of a rabbit and the legs of a chicken. His best friend is a bearded turtle named Abe. As we meet them, they’re being taken by a trapper to the remote, snowy, mountain home of Klaus, a taxidermist who likes exotic animals. (If your kids are sensitive to animal deaths, this is not the book for them.)
While in captivity, they meet Banjo and Meg, a “monkey” and, well, we don’t know what Meg is yet. I didn’t read the original, so maybe that will be revealed in the next volume. (I really hope there’s a next volume.)
Grine has some great moments as artist and writer. I love the cover, where with a few simple lines on their faces, he can really show emotion for Abe and Chickenhare. He also does some lovely work with color and shadow.
On the writing side, I like that he doesn’t bog things down with a bunch of exposition. He lets the character interactions establish everything he needs, and we get quite the interesting quartet. The pacing is just right, moving the action along without feeling we’re missing something.
As a fun extra, Grine has downloadable paper figures of Chickenhare and Banjo at his website.
Like I said earlier, it does seem rather dark and violent for the younger end of the all-ages spectrum. Chickenhare and his friends may look like cute critters, but they can be dangerous fighters. And Klaus, the taxidermist, is downright cruel — and not just to the animals he stuff. He’s a brute.
That puts it in a weird spot. I’d recommend it for 12 and up, which is an age that might be too keen on funny animal books. Though if they’re graphic novel readers anyway, this might be right up their alley. It’s perfect for adults looking for something a little different.