The upside of Bob’s Burgers #1 is that it reminds you strongly of an episode of the show; the downside is that the episode it reminds you of isn’t one of the better ones. The book is set up as an anthology, with one story for each of the five members of the Belcher family. First, there’s “Tina’s Erotic Friend Fiction Presents: My So-Called Life as a Horse”; followed by a one-page sketch of “Burger of the Day Ideas: TV Catch Phrase Burgers & Hits of the 80s Burgers”; “Louise’s Unsolved Mysteries and Curious Curiosities: Picture Day”; “Letters from Linda: Dear ‘Apparently You’re Parenting' Magazine”; and finally, “Gene Belcher Presents: The Boy in the Burger, the Musical.”
The kids’ stories in this book are pretty solid. They have high, simple stakes, like stories that the kids themselves come up with in the show. They’re messy and don’t concern themselves much with tying up or resolving the conflicts they create early on, but they do capture a lot of the spirit of the kids’ characters. Tina’s friend fiction reads exactly like a 13-year-old girl who’s obsessed with the Equestranauts deciding to write herself into their universe. God knows your humble reviewer wrote a few of those involving himself and a vicious hybrid of the Pokemon universe and the Harry Potter universe back in the day (and he hopes his mom did not save those printed out tales).
Bob and Linda’s segments are both basically one-page gags. They aren’t bad by any means; again, very true to the characters. Bob is brainstorming the best possible nicknames for his burgers, and Linda is finding new and exciting ways to drink wine in her everyday life. They both feel a touch underdone, especially as each of the kids’ stories only really heavily features the other kids and not their parents.
The art in the issue is a little too on-point, if that makes sense. There are comics like Regular Show and Adventure Time that keep the aesthetic of their source material but still allow the artists to bring their own style to the table. They let the style serve the artist. In the case of Bob’s Burgers, it seemed like each story could have been a series of storyboards for the actual show. There was almost no individual flavor to the episodes, which is one of the main selling points for me on a TV tie-in comic book. If I wanted to see the show looking exactly the way it looks on TV, I’d just watch the show, y’know?
Overall, this issue seemed scattered and rushed. There were a lot of simple mistakes; in one page, in huge balloons, the Equestranauts address the arch-villain as “Xander” and “Xandar.” (It’s pedantic, but come on. Someone edited this book, and they’re drawing a check to make sure things like that don’t happen.) Some of the pages were just single page gags about the Thundergirls, or the fact that Jimmy Jr. likes to dance. Instead of bringing those things organically into the story, they were sharp elbows in the ribs that ask, “Hey, remember that? From the show? That was hilarious, right? Aren’t you glad you dropped four dollars on this book?” It’s something I’d expect from MAD magazine, but from a comic book, I expect some sort of narrative quality.
The biggest misstep from the writers in this book is limiting the Belchers to a few pages. The anthology episodes of the show are its weakest, because the Belchers thrive on long-form narratives that allow them to grow and change; to get better. The Belchers are not the traditional, unsolvable sitcom family, and even though the episode scenarios get a little outlandish, they always ground the problems in an emotional reality of a regular family that owns a struggling small business, but who love each other. This book makes quick gags out of the struggles of the Belchers and expects us to thank them for it.
Writers: Mike Olsen, Jeff Drake, Rachel Hastings, Justin Hook Artists: Brad Rader, Tony Gennaro, Frank Forte, Bernard Derriman Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment Price: $3.99 Release Date: 8/27/17 Format: Print/Digital