Review by Frank Plowright
Cinebook’s sixth Billy & Buddy collection is the first to follow consecutively from the previous book, although such is the nature of the one page gag strips that it matters little which volume is read first. The only change in creative personnel from Clowning Around is that Jean-Yves Ferri replaces Xavier Cucuel as fourth contributing writer. Otherwise it’s still the art of Laurent Verron illustrating eight panel set-up and punchline jokes supplied by Pierre Veys, Eric Corbeyran, and Chric (Christophe Saloman), with the latter’s contributions considerably increased for work first issued as a French collection in 2005.
Verron notes up front that his art is in the style of Billy & Buddy’s creator Jean Roba, and after spending years assisting Roba it would take an expert’s eye to distinguish between them. There are a few small individual touches creeping in by the end, though, especially via the expressions Verron uses to convey a grumpy Billy. He also makes comical use of the animals seen on the cover, a running joke through most of the volume being that the circus is in town and assorted creatures escape, always ending up in Billy’s front garden. It’s a curious development, resulting in the types of contrived jokes more commonly found in British children’s comics. A few strips work their way to surreal endings, such as one having a raccoon doing the washing up.
Otherwise it’s pretty much business as usual with a succession of beautifully drawn jokes about Buddy’s enormous appetite, love of bones, the increasingly complex tricks required to ensure he takes a bath, and Billy’s exuberance occasionally resulting in damage or loss. Veys returns his unusually considerate burglar from the previous volume, but this time for a more predictable joke, and the single significant departure from artistic conformity is a strip drawn over six panels rather than eight to allow for an orang-utan in a tree. The sample page is Billy & Buddy in a nutshell, some superbly expressive cartooning, a great smug tiger, and a gentle joke as predicable in essence to children as it is to adults.
Beware of the (Funny) Dog is next by Cinebook’s numbering, and takes us back to Roba’s work from 1974.