This Just In: Monkeys Are Funny

In my comics haul this week was the trade paperback of Banana Sunday from Oni Press, by Root Nibot (writer) and Colleen Coover (artist). When this was coming out as floppies, many comics bloggers raved about it, and I was really looking forward to getting it. Now that I have, I can agree with all the praise. The book is utterly charming.

The ad copy says:

Kirby Steinberg is having a bit of trouble fitting into her new school. Sure, there’s the usual interest/antagonism associated with being from “somewhere else,” but THIS time the new kid also happens to be the guardian for three monkeys. Talking monkeys. Through the miracles of science they have all gained the power of speech. Or have they? What’s their REAL story? That’s what Nickels, Kirby’s new best friend and dedicated school reporter, intends to find out!

The artwork is delightful, packed with cute girls and cuter monkeys. Go Go (in the panel above) especially is hilarious in pretty much any panel he’s in. What’s particularly nice is how well Coover uses the entire panel, often having a lot of interesting things going on in the background or sides as well as the main action. The script is deft and witty and keeps the action moving. The monkeys are given very good and funny personalities.

I only had two problems, which will be seen (probably rightfully) as nitpicky. The first is very minor: if you’re the sort of person who thinks that the tag “all-ages” is negated by a single unnecessary sentence of “Don’t piss me off!” then the book is not all-ages. Otherwise, no problem.

The second issue is deeper, and this kind of contains a minor spoiler. There’s a constant theme throughout the book that Kirby wants to be accepted for who she is, and not just as “that girl with the monkeys.” Unfortunately, all she is is that girl with the monkeys. We aren’t shown anything about her character other than that. And in fact, when she finally confronts her major antagonist, she solves the problem with the monkeys, pretty much cementing herself in that role. Hopefully there will be a second story in which Kirby, now being able to share the burden of the monkeys, has more time to be something other than their caretaker.

This second issue is by no means a deal-breaker. It doesn’t harm what is still a well-done book. I’m hoping we eventually see more with these characters and from these creators.

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