Reviewing a comic is, I think, more difficult than reviewing either a single image or a story. The combination of words and images is, ideally, more than the sum of its parts; in a well-made comic the art elevates the words just as the words elevate the art. So where does this one fall? Well, let's consider the art first. Rick Griffin is a talented artist, there's no denying that. He drew this comic in the same style as his webcomic, Housepets!, which we'll get to in a bit when it comes time to discuss the writing. Although it's not a particularly good match for the Disney style of the movie, that's a stylistic choice that's probably for the best. He's probably a good enough artist to be able to closely mimic that style, but what might be lost in the attempt? Certainly sticking with what he's familiar with has its advantages in really conveying the characters visually in a way that simply works, even if they don't perfectly resemble their movie counterparts. Indeed, I'd much rather have this fluid style than something stiff and awkward due to slavish devotion to something he hasn't mastered. The coloring is a clear indicator of the care he put into this, as it's a step above what he normally puts out on a three-times-a-week schedule. On art alone, this would easily be a four, possibly even a five depending on tastes. But then comes the writing. While this story is, technically, canon-compliant as it's simply Nick telling Judy about a dream he had, that dream is obviously Zistopia. To backtrack a bit, Zistopia is the common fan name for one of the earlier concepts of the movie, in which predators are forced to wear electric collars that shock them if they experience strong emotion, in a kind of Harrison Bergeron by way of 1984 style. The appeal of the setting is, I think, perfectly understandable. Darkness always has a certain appeal, perhaps even more so when it comes to adults obsessing over a children's property. (And that's me throwing stones in my glass house there.) It's a way of saying, "See, it's not childish after all!" I get that. I'm not opposed to darkness or angst, as they certainly have storytelling possibilities. Which is, I suppose, part of the appeal for authors. Griffin himself is certainly no stranger to darkness; the undertones of his webcomic Housepets! are undeniably grim. What starts as a lighthearted, almost Garfield-esque story of intelligent talking pets living in a world more or less the same as ours gradually shows that it doesn't ignore the implications of this. Animals killed as pests, or animals that are farmed, are at least as intelligent as the average eight year old, and most humans don't seem particularly bothered by this. Even pets are, at best, a sort of benevolent form of slavery. At least, for the pets lucky enough to have good owners. Like I said, grim undertones. Going back to this particular story, Griffin doesn't shy away from describing the horrible dystopia that Nick dreamed of, but he never shows it. The entire comic is simply Nick and Judy talking over the phone, and that's what drags it down for me. It's a nice enough vignette, but not a great one. The dialogue is reasonably clever and in character, but the visuals do nothing to elevate it. It's pretty to look at, but were this a story with no pictures it'd not be noticeably better or worse. Overall, I'd say it's worth a read. As a whole it's neither great nor terrible, but it is well-done and the art is worth the price of admission.
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