By Dustin Cabeal
The Big Bad Fox was everything I thought it would be. I called the ending by the tenth page, but I also realized that it didn’t matter that I knew how it was going to end. What mattered was whether the story could still be good despite me knowing where it was going. I’m happy to say, that it was better than good, it was great.
I will admit that part of my interest in this story is due to my son. I’m always looking for stories for him to enjoy, be it now or when he’s older. Our theme for his nursery was “Foxes, ” and so when there’s a story about foxes, I go for it.
The story follows a fox. He’s the worst fox ever. He’s not intimidating and doesn’t seem to know how to capture chickens to eat. He’s so pathetic that the guard dog and other farm animals greet him and ask him not to make a mess. Why? Because if he does, he has to clean it up… and does. Eventually, the wolf comes up with a plan with the Fox; they’ll steal chicken eggs and grow them to be eaten. You can probably imagine what happens next in the story.
The Fox is a hilarious character, but only because he’s complimented by a variety of hilarious characters. All of the animals have distinct personalities and traits that define them and add to the story and the world. It’s not just the stereotypes that have been associated with the different species of animals throughout the ages either; if anything creator Benjamin Renner turns them upside down and redefines what can be done with semi-anthropomorphic stories.
The art is genius. Comics and graphic novels are typically all about the panels, the boxes the gutters that break up the story. Renner’s style is different as he opts for a more storybook feeling, but instead of panels, there are semi-completed panels. That’s the best way I can describe it at least. There are essentially invisible panels, but it gives the story a very different feel. The movement between images is amazing because it feels more natural in the way it fits with the story. That and it gives Renner the opportunity to have smaller panels that just focus on the character’s personality rather than a full and lush background to go with the image. That said, there’s not a lot of background images to the art, and yet it’s better for it. That’s extremely rare in comics, and it’s likely because there are not panel lines.
That’s not to say to say that Renner was incapable of backgrounds, rather the opposite. He knew less was more. The rest of his illustrations are iconic and memorable. His designs for the different species defines the entire look of the world. His line work is thick, but oozing personality. The coloring rustic and yet sharp. Even just the simple coloring of the ground can be taken as masterful in that it’s always just enough, but never too much.
The Big Bad Fox isn’t the next Watchmen or some other safe answer story that people feel comics should be, but it is a graphic novel for kids that is masterful in its craft. It’s also a story and the world that I want to visit far more often than the aforementioned comic. The Big Bad Fox is entertaining, beautiful and relatable in a way that other comics struggle with, making it one of the best I’ve read in ages.
The Big Bad Fox
Creator: Benjamin Renner
Publisher: First Second Books