Sunday, June 3, 2012

Achewood Vol. 3: A Home for Scared People

by Chris Onstad

I love Achewood, Chris Onstad's long-running web comic.  I came to the series rather late, starting to read it around the time that Onstad pulled the plug for a long time, although it is currently running again, albeit sporadically.

In the beginning, Achewood was just a funny animal strip, but with time, it developed into something much more profound, while always being very funny.

This third volume of Dark Horse's run of durable hardcover editions of the series collects many of the early strips, running up to October of 2002.  It's an immediate follow-up to the second volume, in terms of presenting the strips chronologically.  The first volume, The Great Outdoor Fight, printed a later storyline, which is one of the most memorable of the series.

I'm not sure why Dark Horse didn't do more to cherry-pick longer stories, than print this melange of one-off strips and short story lines, such as the one that has Roast Beef fly to the moon and refuse to come back.  A recurring theme in this volume is the attempts by Ray Smuckles to initiate tech start-ups based on antiquated computer applications, such as a spreadsheet that tells you when you need to buy milk and eggs, or a logo company that uses crazy computer fonts.

The characters are what makes Achewood work so well.  We have the odd friendship between Ray and Roast Beef as the tentpole of this series, but other characters, such as the young seal Phillipe get their moments in the sun.  It's incredibly hard to describe Achewood in any way that makes it sound different from any other ensemble newspaper strip, so you'll have to take my word that Achewood transcends that genre by an order of magnitude.

As it's been a while since any of these books have been published, I think it's time to systematically work my way through the last ten year's worth of the on-line strips.  This could be a problem though, because these things are pretty addictive...

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