By turns charming, mysterious, and existentially dreadful (albeit in an understated fashion), cartoonist Lis Valasco’s newest (as far as I know) mini, The Adventures Of Moon Pie, relates the tale of her title character and his nameless (again, as far as I know) robot companion, who apparently debuted in an earlier comic, going about the admittedly laborious business of completing some sort of unexplained — perhaps even inexplicable? — mission, and finding little by way of living beings to interact with in the lush forest in which they’ve landed. Apparently, then, having a job sucks just as much for “people” from other planets as it does for those of us here.
Collecting and cataloging mushrooms for some purportedly “higher” purpose is the ostensible goal of our duo, but the long lifespan of our moon-headed protagonist (I refer to him as a “boy” in the title of this review due to his youthful appearance and vaguely adolescent attitude, but who are we kidding? For all I know he could be middle-aged or older), and the essentially endless “life”span of his homemade sidekick, cast the tedium and drudgery of the failure of imagination and will that is work in a whole new light — for most of us, our labors only seem to go on forever; for these two, they actually do.
Don’t take any of this to mean that the book itself is anything like a tough slog to get through, though — for one thing, the robot’s endless sense of curiosity and wonder is a welcome counter-point to Moon Pie’s resignation and loneliness (when he finds a skeleton and can’t tell if it’s alive or dead it’s a moment that’s bittersweet and poignant in equal measure), and the story’s brisk but delicate pacing is deftly employed to mine an admittedly simple premise for all it’s worth and then some. This may not be a “self-contained” comic per se, but it certainly reads like one.
Tell you what, though, it’s the art that’s the real star of the show here (I love it so much that I’ve included one of Valasco’s sketches with this review for fellow “process junkies”), a heady mix of classic cartoon expressiveness, delicate linework, intricate cross-hatching, and sublime use of negative space. We’re talking symphony for the eyes stuff here, folks, with just the right amount of Julia Gfrorer influence bleeding in at the margins. The story may be a short one, but you literally never want to stop looking at it.
All of which means we’re talking about a book that’s both visually and conceptually dense but never necessarily feels like it. Call that what you will : skill, craft, artistry, maybe even — hesitant as I am to “go there” — magic. What I absolutely refuse to call it, though, is work. If there’s one thing The Adventures Of Moon Pie proves beyond the shadow of a doubt (not that you ever did doubt it), that’s the ugliest four-letter word in the English language.
Take my advice — call in sick tomorrow and stay home with this unassuming little marvel of a comic.
The Adventures Of Moon Pie sells for the criminally reasonable price of $5.00 and is available from Liz Valasco’s Etsy shop at https://www.etsy.com/shop/Vialcomics
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