Review Extra: Action Beaver In ‘NOISES’ – Three Beautifully Different Pages Of ‘Bunny Vs Monkey’
by Richard Bruton
Jamie Smart’s Bunny Vs Monkey does funny every episode, every week in the Phoenix, on every page in the books. But sometimes, beautifully, wonderfully, it also does something so special and different.
This is one of those times.
Noises featuring Action Beaver is a thing to make you smile. And think. And maybe shed just a little tear.
Three pages of sheer brilliance.
Jamie Smart’s Bunny Vs Monkey has been in The Phoenix Comic from the very beginning. It’s just so funny, a perfect slice of insanity and anarchy that never fails to put a smile on my face. But occasionally, just occasionally, Smart does something different – something unexpected, something utterly beautiful… this is three pages of just that…in ‘Noises’.
Now, we’ve talked about Smart’s Bunny Vs Monkey before, that brilliantly funny thing, with it’s wonderfully simple set-up – There’s a Monkey fired into the woods (literally fired… from a cannon by a group of scientist types) and those woods are full of little creatures; Bunny, Weenie, Pig, Le Fox, Skunky, Metal Steve. It’s all very manic and silly, Smart’s big cartooning style and ability to magnificent deliver gag after magnificent gag across just 2-pages in the Phoenix almost every week for its 500+ is a superpower all its own.
And you get all that in these newly reformatted Bunny Vs Monkey books, page after page of anarchic silly.
But inside Bunny Vs Monkey Book 3 – The League Of Doom is a 3-page strip that’s a complete change of pace for Smart, something that I called one of the best comics of the year back when it came out one week in The Phoenix. It’s called Noises and it is just one of the best things you’ll read.
It starts with the one character I didn’t mention up above, the monosyllabic-ish Action Beaver, a comedy beaver with a crash helmet.
Thus far, Action Beaver’s been a comedy foil, drafted in by dastardly do-badder Skunky to assist in dire deeds, employed as a danger tester of sorts by everyone else, capable of absorbing ridiculously cartoonish amounts of comedy violence without complaint, his only utterances simple noises.
And that’s pretty much what Action Beaver was… right up till now. But here, Smart switches it up, pulls out something quite beautiful, quite brilliant, and very emotional.
It is, to cut to the chase, absolutely brilliant, Smart switching from the out and out madcap nonsense to something surprisingly sweet and pastoral, melancholy happiness with a Jamie Smart twist.
We join Action Beaver here marauding through the woods with his usual range of ridiculous noises but we also get to see the little flashbacks, those little nasty comments from his friends, the things said too quickly, throwaway things, hurtful things.
You know, like this…
Action Beaver’s a strange one sure, but it’s all too easy to dismiss the weird kid who doesn’t seem to be affected by this sort of thing. Except more often than not, the words do get through, it never matters if they’re truly meant, never matters if they’re a joke. Sometimes the jokes hurt more.
Solace is sought, escape from the words, into a clearing of noise where everything leads up to that glorious panel where Action Beaver and the art leaps out into space…
Leaps out and lands in a bright, beautiful, and noisy paradise.
Surrounded by the woodland creatures who talk to him in simple noise (all the noises, in fact, that we’ve heard Action Beaver say all episode), the sun is on his back, he’s sat in a warm stream… and the beatific smile on his face is just so honest and so true.
Tomorrow he’ll be Action Beaver again, tomorrow they’ll say the things to him that they don’t realise hurt quite so much, but today, in amongst the never-ending noise of the woods, Action Beaver finds a peace and quiet, a happy place.
It’s a few pages, laden with meaning and emotion, beautifully done by Smart, so subtle, so clever, so sweet. Underplaying the emotional impact of thoughtless words and then really opening up visually in that last panel has some punch. How to talk to children about the dangers of bullying, how their words and actions might seem harmless but can have a hidden result.
It’s my favourite Bunny Vs Monkey. It makes me smile, it brings a tear to my eye. It’s still one of the best bits of comics I know.
Brilliant, brilliant comics.
I was torn about showing you the reveal, but I think it’s worth it, think showing it all is worth it just to convince you that Smart is really delivering something special here. So, here’s all of ‘Noises‘
‘Noises’ appears in all its glory in Bunny Vs Monkey: Book 3 – The League of Doom
Written and drawn by Jamie Smart.
Adaptation, additional artwork and colours by Sammy Boras.
Published by David Fickling Books and The Phoenix Comic.