By Larry Marder
224 pages, black and white
Published by Dark Horse
Beanworld has always been billed as, "A most peculiar comic book experience" and I’ve found it to be the perfect tag line to the series. When the series went on hiatus back in 1993 (after 21 issues), it was a sad day in comics. There’s nothing quite like Beanworld in comics, a mixture of adventure, fantasy, and tribal roles. Last year, though, Dark Horse announced two hardcovers collecting the entire series, plus a holiday one-shot and a brand-new graphic novel to come. The last of those has finally shown up in the form of Beanworld Vol. 3: Remember Here When You Are There! and it really did turn out to be worth the wait.
In the Beanworld, life normally proceeds like clockwork. Mr. Spook catches Sprout-Butts given to the tribe by Gran’Ma’Pa, which he and the Chow Sol’jer Army take to the Hoi-Polloi and (through a series of conflict) end up leaving the Sprout-Butt behind but stealing amounts of Chow, which the Beans absorb in order to live. (Meanwhile, the Sprout-Butt transforms into a new batch of Chow.) Beanish creates art for the Beans, Professor Garbanzo is their inventor responsible for all sorts of contraptions, and the Boom’r Band provide music. This is all actually detailed at the start of the book, in a sequence that might frustrate familiar readers but does a good job to refresh people’s memories. It’s a reminder that when an outside invasion back at the start of the series upset the Beanworld’s delicate nature, it resulted in all sorts of leaps and bounds forward for the Beans. With Remember Here When You Are There! we’re finally getting to see that pay off.
Long-time readers will probably remember the original subtitle for this story being Float Force, which was certainly a big hint for the direction of Beanworld. After all, the characters are already experimenting with the Float Factor up until this point, starting to discover how the Mystery Pods would interact with different shapes and forms to create objects that levitate. For that alone, we’re starting to see a large evolution in Beanworld. There’s more to this new volume than just surprising plot twists, though. This is the first time that it’s felt like the Beans are all working together in unity towards the new destiny of the Beanworld, something much more than the workings that in the past were standard. Beanish and the Boom’rs collaborate in ways that affect both Dreamishness and the Float Factor, and Heyoka’s purpose is starting to connect with the rest of the Beans as well. There’s never been a doubt that Larry Marder has envisioned a much larger plan for Beanworld, but here is the first time that I think we’re starting to see exactly how it all connects.
Part of the joy of Beanworld for me has always been Marder’s iconic character designs for the characters. On the surface they’re amazingly simple—beans with arms and legs and eyes—but there’s a lot more going on here. For the Beans who have broken out into something more, it’s surprising how just small changes like Boom’r Bonnets or hats or chips can make them look distinctly different, while at the same time still recognizably one of the Beans but with equipment. The Pod’l Pool Cuties, likewise, are definitely immature Beans but their little hairs and tiny feet make them so instantly adorable it’s rather uncanny. Even small design elements, like the latest Float Factor constructions, or the successor to Beanish’s Hearts, look so simple yet elegant that it continues to amaze me.
Beanworld continually has surprises just hiding up its sleeve, and this new volume is no exception. I love how Marder can take shamanistic traditions and transplant elements into a story that also includes the hero’s journey, pop culture references, slapstick comedy, and the life cycle of a plant. There’s nothing else out there quite like Beanworld. If you’ve never read it before, please, check it out.