Wednesday, April 3, 2013

ChickenHare by Chris Grine

ChickenHare is a graphic novel series picked up by Scholastic's Graphix imprint. They've been touting it as a successor to Bone, but my gn friends said it really wasn't that good. Well, being the book skeptic that I am, I just had to see for myself. Warning: Ahead there be spoilers.

So, it's not so much that it's not good (although it's pretty humdrum art and overall text - looks like every other full color, clean-lined graphic novel Graphix puts out really) it's more that it's COMPLETELY FREAKING WEIRD INSANITY.

The story opens with a guy walking through the snow with what appears to be a rabbit and a turtle in his backpack and he informs them he's going to sell them to this crazy taxidermist. His name is Mr. Klaus. He looks like Santa Claus, except for the...uh...badly taxidermied animals he keeps fondling. They make a bid for freedom by insulting the picture of the taxidermist's long-lost...friend (I really, really hope they were just friends) goat Mr. Buttons. Mr. Buttons appears to have gotten tired of being beaten and run away forty years previously. The rabbit is really the rare ChickenHare and the turtle is a whiskered chelonai. They are imprisoned in bird cages with two other weird animals, a monkey-like creature named Banjo and a somewhat psychotic elf-like girl named Meg who has spunky female heroine written all over her. We discover the turtle's name is Abe, but ChickenHare is just...ChickenHare. They manage to escape, breaking the legs of the jailer in the process and damaging the butler. Mr. Klaus forces them to get into his sleigh and go after his fleeing taxidermy subjects anyways. ChickenHare gets separated from the other animals, who meet some strange little creatures who keep saying that Banjo is a "krampus" which is apparently something bad. ChickenHare meanwhile follows the ghost of a goat and discovers the body of Mr. Buttons - he fell into a crevice, broke his legs, and starved to death. His ghost has just been waiting for someone to come along and thaw his frozen body a little so he can get back in. They all meet up again (including the broken-legged corpse of Mr. Buttons) and have a battle. Mr. Buttons lures Mr. Klaus over the ice and they plunge into a freezing lake and die (well, sort of, the goat was already dead...). The weird little creatures have a feast, Mr. Buttons' ghost shows up and says all is well, and after discovering that the feast was Mr. Klaus' butler and his other servants (YES THEY WERE EATING PEOPLE OMG) they set out on their journey home.

Verdict: I...have no words to describe this. I mean, I don't mind serious subjects in a kids' comic but this makes no sense. "Oh, yeah, in this world Santa is a psychotic, brutal taxidermist" and "sure, let's just eat the bad guys" coupled with the typical kidsy art of Graphix kind of blows my mind. Especially the subtext of Mr. Buttons - stay with an abusive person so they don't hurt anyone else. I can see kids reading this, but I can't see myself spending any of the library's budget on it. I think I'll buy new copies of Bone instead.

ISBN: 9780545485081; This edition published 2013 by Scholastic/Graphix; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

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