Urban Barks: A Home For Mr. Easter

Posted by on May 26th, 2010 at 5:41 AM

Rob reviews the new book from Brooke Allen, A HOME FOR MR. EASTER (NBM).

NBM’s output continues to be dizzyingly varied.  You never know if you’re going to get autobio, fantasy, genre spoofs, slice of life stories or some combination thereof.  The publisher also seems more willing than most to publish graphic novels from newcomers, and that’s the case for Brooke A. Allen’s A HOME FOR MR. EASTER.  This is a classic chase scene book, as corpulent and occasionally belligerent teen misfit Tesana stumbles upon a talking rabbit who may or may not be the Easter Bunny.  She spends the rest of the book running from an increasingly-bizarre cast of characters in an effort to find the rabbit’s home.

Allen’s story is very much in the tradition of Carl Barks’ Donald Duck stories.  Triggered by Tesana’s love of fantasy (she loves to draw unicorns and fantasizes about them helping her out), she creates an ever-increasing wave of antagonists simply by moving from point a to point b in her quest.  There ‘s a stop-go, stop-go rhythm that Allen establishes early on in depicting action (frequently, bursts of violence from Tesana) and moments of rest as information is slowly revealed to the audience.  Allen is nowhere near as fluid as Barks (nor his spiritual successor, Jeff Smith) in depicting this action, a deficiency she makes up for with her character design.

Allen’s influences seem broad, mixing in a bit of Ralph Steadman, Farel Dalrymple and children’s fantasy books.    The key to the success of this book is her marvelous design of Tesana, who is a mountain of a girl with a kind face and disposition–unless provoked.  The snarl that then appears on her face, combined with a sort of hunched-over fury, made for many a funny picture and fight scene.  What I loved most about the character was her lack of awareness about her size and her efforts to reach out to those who sought to shun her.  The gentle giant with a temper is a common trope for male characters in fantasy stories, but is rarely seen for female characters without also making an explicit political statement.

Allen wisely skirts that sort of commentary in this story, even as she manages to fold a cosmetics-testing laboratory, an unethical magician looking to get back the rabbit, and an unscrupulous pet-shop owner looking to make a mint off the easter-egg laying rabbit into the narrative.  At the same time, she also throws in a mob of goofy animal-rights protesters into the stew, who help make up the mob that follow’s Tesana into a nearby forest as she seeks to find the rabbit’s home.  Any commentary about body image or animal rights is strictly subtext in what is otherwise a straight-ahead fantasy adventure story, and that’s a wise course of action.  The framework for this story wasn’t really built to properly express that kind of commentary.

While the plot is simple, she still managed to throw in a couple of twists based on a couple of seemingly throwaway observations.  The simplicity of the plot allowed her to hang a lot of character details that added amusing depth to otherwise one-dimensional antagonists (and allies).  This approach also left her in complete control when it came time to throw in more characters and complications.  Allen’s control over her line and slightly rubbery character design ensured clarity on the page, with little fussiness in terms of overuse of hatching.  The result was a delightful debut from an artist who has a fine grasp of storytelling, character and design and created a genre story that didn’t insult her readers’ intelligence.

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2 Responses to “Urban Barks: A Home For Mr. Easter

  1. […] (Robot 6) Johanna Draper Carlson on vol. 19 of Hikaru no Go (Comics Worth Reading) Rob Clough on A Home for Mr. Easter (The Comics Journal) Michael C. Lorah on A Home for Mr. Easter (Blog@Newsarama) Elizabeth Bird on […]

  2. […] (Robot 6) Johanna Draper Carlson on vol. 19 of Hikaru no Go (Comics Worth Reading) Rob Clough on A Home for Mr. Easter (The Comics Journal) Michael C. Lorah on A Home for Mr. Easter (Blog@Newsarama) Elizabeth Bird on […]