Auntie Agatha’s Home for Wayward Rabbits #1
Beyond Colorlab (colorist), Keith Giffen (writer), Benjamin Roman (artist), Bryan Valenza (colorist)
November 7, 2018
A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Take cute little bunnies. Add liberal doses of “Avenue Q” humor and wit. Include heaping tablespoons of preteen boss lady. Dust with peaceful, muted color palette and bake until golden … everything. Season with just a dash of science fiction and you have Auntie Agatha’s Home for Wayward Rabbits. Drop in, put your feet (and ears) up, and whatever you do: don’t eat the pellets.
Upon first blush at Keith Giffen’s bibliography, one wonders: is he cut out for a story about bunnies and their caretaker? From superheroes to robots to aliens, his work has one common aspect: biting wit and personality clashes. He was the world of Avenue Q before Avenue Q. That approach transcends character and story, whether it’s about Clark Kent or cute bunnies.
As with any first issue, Auntie Agatha’s Home for Wayward Rabbits #1 introduces us to the home and its occupants. These include niece Julie who’s in charge, Sawyer the sardonic de facto right hand rabbit, Pope who speaks in quotes, Loomis the rat, and Fritter who just thanks God that he can take that step. It’s your typical “day in the life” of Auntie Agatha’s home that turns anything but when two strange women (sisters? twins? clones? sister twin clones?) show up wanting to meet Auntie Agatha Winslow about a “definitely unforeseen problem.” And so we meet Ms. Winslow the Elder, which reveals to us just why Julie’s running the show. (Two words: Stephen Hawking.)
Is too much time spent on the exposition? Yes. It’s nice to see the “day in the life” of the home that is soon to be rocked by conflict, but it went on long. There are places where jokes overstay their welcome, such as just what’s in those rabbit pellets. The solicit for this title mentioned the conflict to come—a businessman who wants to tear down Auntie Agatha’s home—but none of this was present in this first issue. There are hints near the end, but not overtly enough. This disconnect doesn’t bode well for future storytelling. One expects a writer like Giffen, known for his expertise in plotting, to handle story structure better.
Plot progression is weak, but characterization reigns supreme. Giffen develops his personalities right out of the gate, guns a-blazing. His skill in the personality clash shines in interactions with Sawyer and Julie. If they’re bickering about dining options at Chez Agatha with these barbs, imagine what will happen when presented with real conflict. They trade beats like Nick and Nora Charles—if you took off the Code filters. Loomis the rat channels Templeton from the 1970s animated film version of Charlotte’s Web. You may not be sure just what is going on in this debut, but you’re enjoying the journey.
Benjamin Roman takes the look of Adventure Time and Steven Universe and translates it well to this story. His rabbits have the bare minimum look needed to convey that they are rabbits (like long ears), with the rest focusing on anthropomorphic features. Each character’s artwork matches personality. Loomis looks like he’s had a fight with a few New York City subway rats and lost. Fritter is textbook hot mess, but those who suffer from OCD may find his portrayal a touch offensive. Scripting gives you the basic sketch of every character; artwork takes those characters to 11. Julie has more of an anime style in her facial features (round head, wide eyes), but it’s not a youthful, innocent, or perfect. She’s full on awkward phase, messy hair and all, and enjoying it.
Bryan Valenza also has fun with his colors, complementing story rather than overpowering it. Muted pastels and subdued earth tones add to the homey feeling of the exposition, with occasional pops as needed. It almost clashes with the intensity in the artwork, but not in a dissonant way; it’s there to emphasize the irreverence of what is happening. Praise also comes due to lettering. Word bubbles in conversations with flow naturally to enhance the wordplay.
This series has the basis to be a hit: fun in-your-face art, complementary color work, fun characters that evoke emotion. The only thing holding this back is plotting weaknesses, so clean that out of the den and let’s get down to the real story of Auntie Agatha and her love of hoarding rabbit pellets.