By Levi Remington
Manny Diamond, a detective giraffe, interviews a former hunt star, partners up with a passionate activist, and inspects a snuff-film theater in search of his uncle's wife's missing "prey fantasy" hunt tape. This Euro-inspired comic ditches the anthropomorphic approach and thrusts primal animals into a hardboiled narrative, but its half-boiled attempts leave us instead with an unpleasant simmer. Read ahead for my complete thoughts on this week's issue of Animal Noir.
What a bizarre comic. Though it's clearly not aimed at kids, it has the shallow depth of a children's story, and the unimpressive vulgarity of a naughty child with an animal fetish. The concept is rich, as porn metaphors in the animal kingdom often are, but the execution falls flat. Its childlike sense of humor fails to connect with me, and the jokes are so obvious and surface level that they get in the way of a story that only exists to contain them.
Manny may be tall, but he is not a compelling giraffe. He's a quiet stand-in for your most basic noir protagonist, but he lacks the wit and charm that one should expect from these stereotypes. There are plenty of colorful characters that he meets, but the only thing appealing about them is their artistic design, not their go-abrasive-or-go-nowhere personalities. On his journey he encounters many animals, including some doped-up monkeys, the hippo mafia and a zebra prostitute who's friend - a working girl of the deer persuasion - explains that "giraffes only fuck during the rains," so Manny's assumed sexual frustrations become a new metaphor for the reader's progressive disinterest. The only difference being that Animal Noir's forecast is looking pretty dry, so us readers may have to get used to the absent satisfaction.
The art by Izar Lunacek (who also co-wrote the book with Nejc Juren) is where this series has the most fun. There's an inherent joy to the dressed-up animals doing human things, while the facial expressions are classically cartoonish and abundant with energy. The colors are bright, but simplistic. It's all in service of establishing these characters and deploying some slapstick comedy. Nothing is going to blow you away, art-wise, and I personally find the style to be lacking in coherency and perspective, but it's very expressive and unlike most comics on the stands right now.
The lettering from Nejc Juren was problematic. The word balloons are awkwardly placed, featuring minuscule arrows from a long distance that confuse the conversation flow. It's often unclear who is speaking first, making for a frustratingly inconsistent reading experience. It doesn't help that the dialogue feels as derivative from the genre as the animals are from reality. The characters don't feel original in any respect.
Animal Noir is a frustrating read. Its sense of humor feels underdeveloped and the characters are overly simplistic. The art is expressive and fun, reminiscent of a European style that's uncommon in most IDW comics, but it's not enough to save these animals from monotony. The superficial nature of the story appears to be an intentional presentation for comedy, but as hard as I tried, I couldn't find much to laugh about.
Animal Noir #2
Written by Izar Lunacek & Nejc Juren
Art by Izar Lunacek
Lettering by Nejc Juren
Published by IDW