Review by Ian Keogh
Bucko begins with an interesting proposition that Jeff Parker threw around the Portland studio that he shares with Erika Moen and several others: what if you were desperate for a dump and there was a corpse lying on the bathroom floor? To turn the screw for story purposes, this also occurs during an interview for a job that our lead, Bucko because no-one ever remembers his name is Rich, is desperate to get. How can anyone not love a graphic novel that starts out like that?
As Bucko was originally produced as a webcomic appearing a page at a time there’s a discursive and episodic quality to it, but also a density as the creators attempt to pack ever page. Early on, due to hilariously drawn circumstances, Bucko is the chief suspect regarding the corpse he found, so ends up in the police holding tank. There’s no real narrative relevance to his being there, but it leads to two hilarious pages and there are similar meanderings throughout as Bucko and pals decide to solve the murder in the bathroom. There’s a great twist to this, which has to be pointed out as during the original serialisation some folk missed it, but anyone getting too hung up on the plot is going to miss the small moments, and they’re really the point of the entire project. Yes, there’s a great follow-up to the dead body, and there’s a quest, but it for something else entirely as Bucko becomes one long and often hilarious shaggy dog story.
Moen has a great loose cartooning style. Her characters stride through the strips (when they’re not cycling) and her character design is superlative, which is just as well as there’s a deliberate parade of oddities set marching through the pages. The most terrifying of them is the Juggalette, Parker relating that she has the speech patterns of 1980s wrestler Dusty Rhodes. We know that because adding to the overall charm of Bucko is that each page is accompanied by short comments from the creators. Among the others from Parker is one noting that much of the madness he threw into Bucko was just to see what it would look like when Moen drew it, so we have a community made from books, ghost bikes, a fantastic selection of costumes, and much, much more, with Moen rising to the occasion brilliantly every time.
It’s not mentioned anywhere in the notes, but the creators must surely have realised they were producing a really good Scooby-Doo story. There’s no dog, but everything else is to the template. It’s a lot of fun. Of course, you can still read the entire strip on the Bucko website if you want, but then you’d miss out on all those comments, the extra bonus strip, Moen’s article about process, and the other nifty bits.