Review by Win Wiacek
Very much in the manner of classic British Christmas Annuals, The Funniest Book Ever! is a wonderful compendium of captivating comics from the fabulous weekly Phoenix.
Concocted with feverish glee by Jamie Smart, Bunny vs. Monkey is a madcap war of nerves and ideologies between animal arch-enemies set amidst an idyllic arcadia, masquerading as a more-or-less mundane English wood. The tail-biting tension and rural war of wits and wonder-weapons began when an obnoxious simian intruder popped up after a disastrous space shot went awry. Having crash-landed in Crinkle Woods, Monkey believes himself the rightful owner of a strange new world, despite the continual efforts of sensibly reasonable Bunny to convince him otherwise.
Smart’s hyperactive imagination and manic illustration supplies a tranche of hilariously turbulent tiny terrors before a heaping helping of Star Cat as crafted by the astoundingly clever James Turner.
The premise is timeless and instantly engaging, revealing the far-out endeavours of a bunch of spacefaring nincompoops in the classic mock-heroic manner. There’s so very far-from-dauntless Captain Spaceington, extremely dim amoeboid Science Officer Plixx, inarticulate and barely housebroken beastie The Pilot and Robot One, who quite arrogantly and erroneously believes himself one of the smartest thinkers in the cosmos. The colossal, formidable void-busting vessel they traverse the universe in looks like a gigantic ginger tom because that is what it is: half-cat, half-spaceship. What more do you need to know?
Evil Emperor Penguin is created by children’s book illustrator/author Laura Ellen Anderson and stars a bad bird who lurks in a colossal fortress beneath the Antarctic, where he strives tirelessly towards his stated goal of absolute global domination. His only assistance – if you can call it that – comes in the form of an army of hench-minions: most notably stylish, erudite administrative lackey Number 8 and cute, diminutive, fuzzy, loyal, utterly inventive abominable snowman clone Eugene.
Jess Bradley’s diverting digressions Squid Bits features gags, absurd Things To Do and odd innovations ranging from Monster Fashion to Red Panda’s Insult Guide. Gary’s Garden is a marvellous minibeast comedy-adventure crafted by Gary Northfield, exploring human nature through the fauna and flora unnoticed at our feet.
Barbarian Celebrity Chef Gorebrah! crushes evil whilst concocting outrageous recipes and tasty treats. Courtesy of James Stayte, he offers a selection of dishes and disasters including prehistoric demonic biscuits embedded in glacial ice, princess-flavoured milkshakes monopolised by cloud-dwelling giants, smoky sausage bats and a duel with a rival gustatory wild man.
The selection crashes to a halt with Looshkin – the Adventures of the Maddest Cat in the World!! It’s more mayhem from Jamie Smart (sample art), and a brilliantly bonkers addition to the vast feline pantheon of truly horrifying hairballs infesting the graphic universe. This anarchic kitty is just like yours: cute, innocently malign and able to twist the bounds of credibility and laws of physics whenever the whim takes him.
Packed with fun, thrills and the type of bizarre, nonsensical wonderment kids love but can’t explain to anyone over 21, The Funniest Book Ever is a superb package of British-style children’s humour and adventure any parent should be proud to own. Follow the links for reviews of character-specific collections.