Chickenhare: The House of Klaus (Dark Horse)

Fans of all-ages adventure will love this story about a half-rabbit/half-chicken and his friends as they narrowly escape from an evil taxidermist, and eagerly look forward to the next installment.   

Dark Horse, 156 pages, B&W, $9.95

(W/A: Chris Grine)

 

Chickenhare: The House of Klaus is the first book in what will hopefully be a long series about a group of misfit animals by writer and artist Chris Grine. The story begins with Chickenhare and his best friend Abe the Bearded Box-Turtle being trekked across the mountains to be sold to Klaus, an evil taxidermist with a taste for exotic pets. The pair are imprisoned along with a monkey-like animal named Banjo and the enigmatic and feisty Meg. Now a quartet, the gang manages to narrowly escape the maniac's mansion; little do they know that this is only the beginning of their adventure.

 

The cover to Chickenhare by Chris Grine.All of the characters are well-written in House of Klaus-the villain Klaus is delightfully deplorable, and his henchmen are cruel and ruthless-but it mostly retains the lighthearted feel appropriate for a kid's book. Chickenhare's bold leadership plays well off of Abe's hesitancy, and Meg keeps Banjo's antics in check.

 

A simple story and dialogue keep the book kid-friendly, but notes of dark humor would be more appreciated by an adult audience. Because of a few slightly questionable words ("crap" and "suck" both appear) and the appearance of a friendly but slightly decayed dead goat, House of Klaus may not be for very young readers, but certainly any child who watches prime time TV wouldn't blink an eye at these elements.

 

When read primarily as a children's story, Chris Grine's storytelling is effective and engaging. The reader roots for the good guys to triumph, knowing that they will in the end. Certain parts of the story seem rushed, but in the imagination of a child Chickenhare's tale would probably seem nearly as epic as Alice's adventures in Wonderland.

 

Preview art from Chickenhare by Chris Grine. Click thumbnail for a larger image.The art of House of Klaus is simple and straightforward, with clean shapes and bold lines. Grine's style is very modern and cartoon-ish, which is great for an all-ages book-if the art leaned any darker or more towards realism, younger readers may feel more threatened by scarier parts of the story. More attention could have been paid to the backgrounds throughout the book, however, as detail in the character's surroundings would probably go a long way in attracting an adult audience. Just flipping though the book, a prospective reader may be put off by the art's efficient simplicity.

 

While thoroughly enjoyable for adults that have an appreciation for children's literature, Chickenhare: The House of Klaus falls short of the kind of truly all-ages appeal that Jeff Smith's Bone or comic strips like Calvin and Hobbes and Peanuts have but, of course, this is only the first volume. Perhaps in time, Chickenhare and his friends will become staples in children's and comics lovers' libraries alike.  If this first volume is any indication, they certainly should be.

 

Chickenhare creator Chris Grine will be appearing for a signing on Saturday, November 25th, from 1-4pm at Star Clipper in the U. City Loop. For more information, visit http://starclipper.popshoponline.com/

 

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