Rating: 4/5 – Awesome Indie Opossum Adventure of an Anthropomorphic Youth
I made a promise to myself and my well respected readers that I will not succumb to the temptation of pun based references based on the title of this book. Awful is an anthropomorphic opossum, or oppossum, as he would have it. This is a 6″ by 9″ collection of the webcomic of the same name. Like the webcomic it is black and white but unlike the webcomic, link listed above, this is a slightly different edition. The most notable difference is the exquisitely delightful hand lettering in the physical book. I am no expert on lettering but in this instance it helps provide a vitality to the page that really appeals to me. I would advise sticking with the print edition if it is within your budget, available directly from the creator’s website, link above. The book is the sole creation of Jon O’Briant, minus a bonus pinup in the physical collection by Bobgar Ornelas (b-one).
The cover shows our protagonist, Awful, and the book takes us through his attempts to find love with all types of ladies. All types not only refers to their personalities but their species as well. The world is similar to ours except inhabited by talking creatures who are all approximately the same size, irrespective of their actual size. While never made explicit, it appears that our characters are roughly the equivalent of late teens, perhaps early twenties. There are a few references to specific bands that might provide an approximate time frame but I think it is kept somewhat ambiguous. Certainly I think a discrete reference to Awful enjoying Larry Marder’s Beanworld brought a smile to my face. The world feels legitimate and the characters are real and consistent.
Due to my deficiencies as a reviewer, I find myself falling back on the tired descriptor “indie” to give the sensibility of the artwork, maybe “small press” would be more apt. The panels are laid out by roughly drawn borders three rows vertically except when the characters are dancing which are borderless pages or portions of pages showing the two characters cutting a rug. The emotion of the participants is well communicated by those drawings. In Awful’s world, dancing has a connotation not dissimilar to sex but not entirely similar either. It is one aspect that I return to when thinking about the book. Further, the book normally shows blotchy, jagged shadows cast by the characters except when dancing which helps convey a certain lightness and freedom to their movements.
Awful’s lot in life (and there I break my promise) revolves around his relationships with the women in his life, his love of video games and spending time with his friend Billy Bat, Jr, an actual bat. When the characters are introduced, they often get their own text box, so Billy is described as “nocturnal, optimist.” Awful goes on an emotional roller coaster with the different ladies, not always choosing the correct action nor thing to say. While Awful never seems to be hurting for dance partners, he often finds himself out of step. There is plenty of humor but overall I found a bit of a bittersweet tone to the book but that just as likely speaks to my outlook over the book’s outlook. Romance is a tough game.
The panels tend to be just what is required but when needed, detail in the backgrounds is provided. He is able to convey much expression with a minimal amount of lines on the page. While I recognize some of the music references and the Beanworld reference, I am unfamiliar with the video game titles selected and don’t know if they are created here or another reference. He does have some fun with a visit to the cinema showing a few movies you are not likely to see. The specific references provide some verisimilitude to this world at the risk of dating the references. This provides no barrier to me but not sure if the youngsters will feel the same. Perhaps the most telling is the telephone sequences which involve depictions of the old rotary telephone. However at this point there may be some argument that the old style telephone is more of a symbol of all that is telephones, almost a platonic ideal rather than a communications device but I leave that to others more philosophical.
As should be obvious, I really enjoyed this book. The website provides the entire story but as noted there are benefits to the paper version beyond the aesthetic appeal of feeling the weight of the book in your hands, the smell of the print, the feel of the pages. Read the strip for free on the web and order a physical copy if you enjoy it. Leave a comment, I would enjoy hearing your views on this strip.
Reviewed by: Andrew Sanford – firstname.lastname@example.org
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