I'm a Jamie Smart fan, so I bought this. It's collecting his best-known strip from The Phoenix, although it works better in weekly episodes. It's just lots of funny mini-stories, you see, usually four pages long. There's no plot. You could read the episodes in any order, although there are hints towards the end that story arcs might be coming. For now, though, it's just Fun With Cartoon Animals.
Our heroes include:
- 1. BUNNY, who's sensible and nice. (He's the only one.)
- 2. MONKEY, who thinks this is an alien planet (it's not) and loves causing trouble.
- 3. SKUNKY the skunk, a genius who invents amazing machines for Monkey to make trouble with.
- 4. ACTION BEAVER, who loves danger and often hits his head against things. He can't speak, but he makes noises.
- 5. LE FOX, who likes to think he's a grimdark macho 1980s anti-hero. Yes, he's in the wrong comic.
- 6-7. PIG & WEENIE (a squirrel), who are child-like, fun-loving and easily scared. Oh, and stupid. They'll forget life-threatening information they were told in the previous panel.
MONKEY: "Hey! Dumb Bunny, and your dumb friends! You're dumb!"
BUNNY: "Well now, that's just bad timing. Since Pig and Weenie have just glued their heads together, you have a point."
PIG & WEENIE: "rrg!" "hee hee!"
MONKEY: "Oh, well, sorry. It was more intended as a general insult."
It reminds me distantly of Bone, while also being very different. Bone has a plot and anyone can enjoy it, including adults, whereas this series is goofier, plot-free and aimed at small children. Jamie Smart's absolutely not ripping off Jeff Smith (although their initials are the same!), but even so both series have a fantasy forest with whimsical comedy, the passing of the seasons (starting with winter) and talking animals. Presumably Bunny would be Fone Bone, Monkey would be a less grouchy Phoney and Pig+Squirrel would each be half of Smiley. There's even an episode ("Who's afraid of the big bad bear?") that's very "stupid, stupid rat creatures".
This isn't an important series at all. It's funny. That's it. It's full of idiots whose decision-making suggests four-year-olds. This is charming, especially in Jamie Smart's art style. In "The Wish Cannon", for instance, Monkey gets the most powerful weapon in the world.
MONKEY: "Bow down, woodland idiots! Your new leader, Monkey, holds all the power now!"
WEENIE: "I'll swap you that thing for this cake."
MONKEY: "Oo, I do like cake."
If buying these, though, be careful. They've been collected twice. This is the first series:
- 1. Bunny vs Monkey: Let the Mayhem Begin! (2014)
- 2. Bunny vs Monkey 2: Journey to the Centre of the Eurg-th (2015)
- 3. Bunny vs Monkey 3: The Stench (2016)
- 4. Bunny vs Monkey 4: The Wobbles (2017)
- 5. Bunny vs Monkey 5: Destructo (2018)
- 6. Bunny vs Monkey 6: Apocalypse (2019)
- 7. Bunny vs Monkey 7: The Floating Cow Catastrophe! (2020)
...but then they started a new reprint series, in smaller, thicker volumes in the same format as Dog Man, saying "'Perfect for fans of Dog Man'". (I prefer it to Dog Man.)
- 1. Bunny vs Monkey (green cover but no subtitle, 2020, collects first 1-2)
- 2. Bunny vs Monkey: The Human Invasion (2021, collects first 3-4)
- 3. Bunny vs Monkey and the League of Doom! (2021, collects first 5-6)
- 4. Bunny vs Monkey and the Supersonic Aye-Aye (2022, includes first 7)
This series is funny and I enjoyed it, although it takes a while to warm up. It's better once the full cast's been assembled. It works better as weekly episodes than in a chunky collected volume like this, but then again I only bought it because a collected volume exists. I'd definitely recommend this to anyone aged 6-12 and it's the reason we now have a subscription to The Phoenix. I showed this to Natsuki. He immediately read it from cover to cover, then after dinner started rereading it. He was discussing its characters and jokes in the bath and we now own all four (so far) volumes.