By Jen Vaughn
24 pages, black and white
Published by Monkeybrain Comics
I will freely admit that while you can’t judge a book by its cover, sometimes a book’s title is more than enough to get me to buy a copy. That was the case with Jen Vaughn’s new comic Avery Fatbottom: Renaissance Fair Detective #1. And while the end result might not be exactly in line with what you’d imagine with a title like that, there’s more than enough to amuse in this whirlwind tour of life at a Renaissance fair.
Avery Fatbottom: Renaissance Fair Detective #1 follows our titular hero as she prepares for the first day of running the local Renaissance fair. With her friend Gwen by her side, and also being on a third date with high school teacher Benn, Avery serves as our guide to the ins and outs of the different attractions and traditions at this particular fair. In many ways the comic is a walk through this sort of event; there’s not that much plot, but I’m not convinced that there needs to be just yet. Vaughn is giving us, at least for now, a character-driven story. The hook isn’t "what happened to Loxley the elephant?" but rather seeing Avery interact with Benn and Gwen.
With that in mind, it’s a relief to say that the characterization in Avery Fatbottom #1 is pretty strong. Even before Avery and Gwen cry out, "Friends forever!" on the second page, it’s already obvious what good friends they are with one another, and that’s thanks to just six panels. Vaughn is able to quickly create those sort of bonds through the dialogue and the art working together; their pre-fair "checklist" is not only cute, but it comes across as a comfortable ritual that they’ve clearly gone through dozens (if not hundreds) of times in the past. It’s that sort of warm teasing that brings the affection to the forefront; by the time Benn shows up for his date with Avery, the fact that Gwen is tagging along feels natural because we’ve seen the two interact so closely.
There’s still some little plot bits to lure us into later installments, too. Loxley’s sudden collapse hasn’t been explained, after all, and the hints about why Avery now runs the fair on her own promise an emotional explanation down the line. Perhaps more importantly, though, I want to see more of Avery and Benn with one another. Even with the teasing and slightly ribald final panel (if you’ve been paying attention), there’s still a lot that Vaughn can do with the two together, and it should be fun.
Vaughn’s art is nice, telling the story in a six-panel grid and using ink washes over the pencils to help provide texture and depth to the art. Vaughn’s at her best when it comes to the looks on her characters’ faces, though. Avery’s look of concentration as she prepares to throw the axe is almost prayerful, for example, and I love the look of attraction that Benn has on his when he kisses her hand. I wouldn’t mind seeing some more backgrounds here and there in future issues—this is a setting where there’s so much to see, after all—but on the whole it’s an good, pleasing style.
I love that companies like Monkeybrain have provided a platform for comics like Avery Fatbottom: Renaissance Fair Detective #1. It’s perhaps not the most commercial of ideas, but with it being provided through a digital platform, Vaughn and Monkeybrain can skip past a costly print run and provide it at a low price that makes it easier to both distribute and sample. And you know what? For a buck, it’s well worth your time. I bet you’ll be coming back for the second issue; I know I will. It’s fun.
Purchase Links: ComiXology