Review by François Peneaud
With Fox Bunny Funny, writer and artist Andy Hartzell has created a wordless tale with all the qualities of a good morality play and enough depth to allow for multiple interpretations.
In a world shared by foxes and rabbits, the foxes hunt, kill and eat the rabbits. So far, so more-or-less usual, but both species are intelligent and live in surroundings very much like ours, which immediately complicates things.
In that world, a young fox feels different: he doesn’t enjoy the killing and is even shown dressing in a rabbit suit. When his parents discover him, they send him to a hunting camp to teach him how to behave properly. The last part of the book shows the same protagonist, now grown-up, and the consequences of his younger self’s brainwashing, leading to a very weird and dreamlike ending, which should prompt some interesting discussions.
Hartzell’s art is also a pleasure. As is the case with all good cartooning, it seems pretty simple, using few lines and large black areas, but is in fact very expressive. It highlights Scott McCloud’s statement in Understanding Comics of highly stylised art enhancing the reader identification process. We do identify with the nameless character and his difficulty in fitting into his culture.
Another telling choice is the almost exclusive use of a six-panel grid. It seems Hartzell did everything to make this book accessible to non-comics (or young) readers, who are often lost in the modern disintegration of the page layouts. The few times the grid isn’t used are of course all the more striking.
Race, identity, sexual or otherwise, consumerist society, all those and other themes can be used to interpret this story. The way Hartzell has managed to blend various facets questioning normality in one seamless narrative is impressive, and the large canvas upon which he has painted his parable is intellectually and emotionally very satisfying.