By Jaimie Smart, with Sammy Borras (David Fickling Books)
ISBN: 978-1-78845-280-9 (TPB) 978-1-78845-118-5 (Waterstones Exclusive Edition)
Bunny vs. Monkey has been a staple of comics phenomenon The Phoenix since the very first issue in 2012: recounting a madcap vendetta gripping animal arch-enemies set amidst an idyllic arcadia masquerading as more-or-less mundane but critically endangered English woodlands.
Concocted with gleefully gentle mania by cartoonist, comics artist and novelist Jamie Smart (Fish Head Steve!; Looshkin; Flember), the trendsetting, mindbending yarns have been wisely retooled as graphic albums available in remastered, double-length digest editions such as this one.
All the tail-biting tension and animal argy-bargy began yonks ago after an obnoxious little beast popped up in the wake of a disastrous British space shot. After crashlanding in Crinkle Woods – scant miles from his launch site – lab animal Monkey believed himself the rightful owner of a strange new world, despite all efforts from reasonable, sensible, genteel, contemplative forest resident Bunny to dissuade him. For all his patience, propriety and good breeding, the laid-back lepine just could not contain the incorrigible idiot ape, who was – and is – a rude, noise-loving, chaos-creating loutish troublemakerâ€¦
Problems are exacerbated by the other unconventional Crinkle creatures, particularly a skunk called Skunky who has a mad scientistâ€™s attitude to life and a propensity to build extremely dangerous robots and super-weaponsâ€¦
Here – with artistic assistance from Sammy Borras – the war of nerves and mega-ordnances resumes and intensifies. The unruly assortment of odd critters loitering around and cluttering up the bucolic paradise have finally picked sides: shifting and twisting into bipartisan factionalism. They all seem to have forgotten that rapidly encroaching Hyoomanz as they respond to another personal crisis and the rise to power of an unsuspected third force in woodland politicsâ€¦
As ever divided into seasonal outbursts, the saga starts slowly with a chilly teaser tale as Winter ends in the â€˜Thaw of the Snow-Botsâ€™â€¦
The assorted animals have been in stasis in a giant freezer, and once fire-breathing snowmen attack, they decide itâ€™s best to have a little more kipâ€¦ or do they?
The story actually resumes in Spring and the far future where time-traveller Ai – a superfast Ai-Ai not naturally indigenous to our sylvan glades and endangered shores – learns of a disaster thatâ€™s history here but her tomorrow. A good person, she undertakes â€˜The Journey Homeâ€™ but arrives too late as â€˜A Rather Maniacal Badgerâ€™ details how the woods have been conquered at lastâ€¦
Previously, a catastrophic rivalry erupted when rival evil genius Maniacal Badger vied with Skunky for the title of â€œThe Most Brilliant Animal in the Woodsâ€. Now, while everyone was hibernating, the black-&-white bounder has occupied the region and established a base in a 50-foot (15-24 meters) high statue of himself as the first step in building his dream of Badgertopia.
The shock of defeat particularly affects Skunky, who descends into a spiral of depression and lowering esteemâ€¦
Universal innocents Weenie squirrel and Pig have their own way of de-stressing and not even roving robot drones can upset â€˜A Quiet, Uneventful Dayâ€™ on the lake. Old animosities are paused and enemies become temporary allies planning to resist through â€˜Distractionâ€™ and strategic deployment of brain-battered, bewildered suicide bomber/former stuntman Action Beaver, but when that scheme flops we instead focus on â€˜A Sad Skunkâ€™ as the original mad scientist undergoes an existential crisis and needs Bunny to share it withâ€¦
The relative inactivity soon triggers his robot back-up to mischief mode, but even â€˜Mecha Skunky!â€™ is not immune to the doldrums and thereâ€™s nothing â€˜Action Beaver!â€™ can do to rectify the situation, especially after the badger activates a gross flying terror who swallows everybody in â€˜The Whale!â€™
Having retreated to the tunnels built by long-gone but not forgotten local legend Fantastic Le Fox, the uneasy animal animals hide from the tyrantâ€™s tantrums in â€˜Too Noisy!â€™: unexpectedly discovering a hidden, weapon-stocked lair that will be the base for their fight backâ€¦ once they have safely reassembled â€˜All the Toys in the Toyshop!â€™
Although initial giant robot â€˜Battle Bat!â€™ spectacularly fails, resistance efforts continue, but Monkey is easily distracted and soon moves to make his own empire in â€˜Monkeyopia Rises!â€™ and as Summer begins â€˜Divisions!â€™ proliferate. Before long the war with Bunny flares up again and instantly moves into the province of war crimes as the simian unleashes his flatulence-powered â€˜Rofl-Copter!â€™
Weenie and Pig go on a â€˜Treasure Hunt!â€™ in the mouldering pile of toxic rubbish kindly left by the Hyoomanz, but find no shield from the badgerâ€™s latest infamy: mind controlling everyone and turning the Woods into his digital plaything in â€˜Game Over!â€™
A brief diversion follows in an exclusive Bunny vs Monkey Detective Story, but â€˜The Curious Case of the Pig in the Night-Timeâ€™ is less baffling than Bunnyâ€™s failure to join mystic brotherhood â€˜The Order of the Mooseâ€™â€¦
When young Hyoomanz find themselves â€˜(Not) Alone in the Woodsâ€™ during a class trip one little girl renews her old acquaintance with Metal Steve after he saves them from Maniac Badger attacks, whilst elsewhere â€˜Monst-Ughs!â€™ run wild after improper use of Skunkyâ€™s old monster ray, leading to a glimpse at the tyrantâ€™s origins and family issues in â€˜The Making of a Maniacal Badger!â€™
Incorrigible Monkey then loses control of marauding robot â€˜Doom Fists!â€™ after he is attacked by his wicked doppelganger Evil Monkey and partner in crimes Evil Monkey Wife, whilst elsewhere Skunky recovers some of lifeâ€™s zest after helping Weenie and Pig repair one of the badgerâ€™s â€˜Evil Drones!â€™
Three part saga â€˜The Saving of Skunky!â€™ sees order restored after the badgerâ€™s plan to kidnap Skunky and steal whatâ€™s left of his evil genius goes awry. Trapped together in the Dark Woods, the skunk experiences a ghastly visitation and by the time the Maniacal one gets back to his conquered kingdom, thereâ€™s a restored archenemy waiting to deliver â€˜A Sharp Shockâ€™ with electrified clouds and a Zeus costumeâ€¦
Badgerâ€™s retaliation is ancient thought monster â€˜Ragnaggtrix!â€™ but thereâ€™s an inherent flaw in something dependent on belief that the evil genius didnâ€™t consider. Thankfully, Skunky is preoccupied â€˜Distracting the Monkey!â€™ from cadging more superweapons to misuseâ€¦
Bunny becomes guinea pig when Skunky and Monkey test emotion-warping Mind Mines in â€˜Highly Strung!â€™ and as â€˜Autumn begins The Rise of an Empire!â€™ finds expansionist Monkeytopia devasted by its rulerâ€™s idiocy, even as the badger traps the woodland creatures inside his new phone app in â€˜Game On!â€™ Itâ€™s a huge, costly mistakeâ€¦
â€˜Balloonacy!â€™ breaks out when Weenie and Pig try to attend Aiâ€™s birthday party, before a new character debuts. â€˜Lucky!â€™ is a red panda who escaped a lab doing weird experiments. It might not have been in time though, since the three-way war for supremacy in the woods triggers an odd reactionâ€¦
The action and drama ramp up for a big finish as Badger is made to clean his room and employs the â€˜Doomsday Device!â€™ that opens portals to Hell. Shame about his mum and dadâ€¦
Skunky makes a silly mistake and gives the wrong animal some atomic powered â€˜Explosive Sweets!â€™ which makes Halloweenâ€™s â€˜Fright Night!â€™ Scare-Off pretty anticlimactic war, before another peek at the future reveals the legend of â€˜Jetpack Beaver!â€™
A distant relative tries to make one woodland weirdo â€˜Pigging Rich!â€™ with little success, after which a bad tooth and unwise consultation with Skunky results in Monkey taking a big bite out of everything in â€˜Chomp!â€™
The cataclysmic end begins when the Maniacal one pressgangs â€˜The Badger Armyâ€™ to do his bidding but forgets the speciesâ€™ tendency to unionise even as Skunky creates a â€˜Terraforming Orb!!â€™ to purpose-build a new world. Itâ€™s a shame Monkey dropped it on his own head while it was switched onâ€¦
Winter begins with 3-chapter epic â€˜A Very Badger Christmasâ€™ that delivers shocking big reveals, pulls all the plot threads of the past year together, ends the world and still leaves rueful survivors wondering what comes next in â€˜Aftermathâ€™. Whatever you think happened youâ€™re wrong, so you just have to buy this book to see howâ€¦
The animal anarchy might end for now thereâ€™s one more secret to share with detailed instructions on â€˜How to Draw Maniacal Badgerâ€™ so, as well as beguiling your young â€™uns with stories, you can use this book to teach them a tradeâ€¦
The zany zenith of absurdist adventure, Bunny vs Monkey is weird wit, brilliant invention, potent sentiment and superb cartooning crammed into one eccentrically excellent package: never failing to deliver jubilant joy for grown-ups of every vintage, even those who claim they only get it for their kids. This is the kind of comic parents beg kids to read to them. Is that you yet?
Text and illustrations Â© Jamie Smart 2022. All rights reserved.
Bunny vs Monkey: Rise of the Maniacal Badger is published on July 7thÂ 2022 and is available for pre-order now.