Big Dumb Fun

Edited by Patrick Godfrey and Jesse Bauch
168 pages, black and white
Published by Oddgod Press

It’s rare to find an anthology in which you like every single story. To have your tastes match up exactly with the editor’s is pretty difficult, after all, making you really just hope to enjoy the majority. When I opened up Big Dumb Fun I wasn’t at all sure who half of the names connected were, but I figured that if a majority of them turned out to be good, well, I was definitely ahead.

There’s no real unifying theme to Big Dumb Fun other than, apparently, the qualifier that they’re all just big dumb fun. Fortunately, fun is definitely one of the qualities for a lot of these stories. If I had to single out a single story as my favorite, Rebecca Rice and Jonathan Adams’s “My New Best Friend” would certainly be in the running. In many ways it typifies the anthology for me: crazy but funny jumps of logic, a general sense of something being not quite right with the situation, and a good sense of humor. Rice and Adams’s story of a girl subjected to one of the most terrifying dinners imaginable had me laughing quite a few times, and Adams’s computer-generated art (at least, I’m assuming it is) fits the story perfectly with looking perfectly normal on the surface, but somehow seeming disturbingly off the more you look at it.

Also extremely strong are Dash Shaw’s “Always Seek the Truth. Devote Your Life to Truth” and Joel Priddy’s “The Baker’s Son”. Shaw’s twist on the classic board game Clue (or Cluedo on the other side of the Atlantic) starts out as a simple parody of familiar characters and rapidly becomes something even more interesting, with its characters and interrelationships spurring emotions on our narrator’s part. It’s a short and quick story, but it surprised me by how much of an impact it made on me. Priddy’s “The Baker’s Son” brings to mind a much earlier creation than Clue, evoking old fairy tales with the story of a baker who desperately wanted a son. The art has a nice quality to it that reminds you of classic children’s books (and a little bit of Linda Medley’s Castle Waiting), and like Grimm’s original fairy tales, the story is ultimately much darker than the watered down stories that are told today.

That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy some of the other stories, of course. Patrick Godfrey’s “Assault of the Sentient Alien Tacos” is as ludicrous as it sounds, and I really like the way that Godfrey’s inks appear on the page, looking like they’d been brushed onto each individual copy of the book. Richard Hahn’s one-page entries remind me a lot of his Lumakick comic, with a nice sense of ludicrousness mixed with clean art and a nice, quick move to the finish. Kagan McLeod’s “The Capture” is a prime example of how one could take a story concept that in other hands would be going for titillating (female pirates losing their dresses) and instead makes it fun and completely non-sexual. And last but not least, Jai Nitz and Kelley Seda’s “Empty Nest” is a short but sweet little story that can’t help but tug at your heartstrings, thanks to both Nitz’s story about getting a second chance at saving a life as well as Seda’s absolutely adorable illustrations.

Only a handful of stories really didn’t work for me at all; Oura’s “Da’ Game of Def” felt like it was going a bit too far in its attempts to see how violent and low it could go, deliberately being nasty for the sake of being nasty. Reilly Brown’s “Orath the Intergalactic Caveman” came in at a distinct disadvantage of being the second part of a serial. And likewise, Crawdad Jones’s new installments of his series “E” just did nothing for me.

Overall, though, Big Dumb Fun is big, not that dumb, and fun. With 27 entries in all, there’s bound to be something you like. I’d say there were definitely more stories I liked than disliked, which is always a good trait in an anthology. And if nothing else, it’s a great way to see which creators’s work you’re going to have to track down more of. If Oddgod Press wants to have more big dumb fun, well, I’m not going to stop them.

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