By Ben Snyder
Using personified animals has been a very lucrative and productive method throughout the history of animation and cartoons. Disney consistently makes a hit movie every couple of years with this premise, and Fables used this idea to some extent as well. We could even go back to Animal Farm for instance. But that would be the only way that a book such as Unnatural could be mentioned within the same breath of said institutions. Unnatural #1 is one of the most heavy-handed, low grabbing, and uncomfortable stories I’ve read in a long time if not ever. I’d recommend anyone steers clear of this story unless they’re interested in low quality furry fan-fiction.
Maybe I am being jaded because I don’t identify with that community and picked this title to review at random, so the initial shock of the story opening with a semi-nude, anthropomorphic, pig-woman threw me off. But besides this, I can confidently say that the story and writing of this story is some of the worst I’ve seen from a major comic publisher such as Image.
Let’s begin with Leslie, the central protagonist who is a hybrid of a pig, Sarah Jessica Parker from Sex and the City, and almost every 20 something struggling to survive. That’s pretty much the character except that she particularly loves sushi and lives in a world where any hybrid relationship (dog and cat couples for example) or same-sex relationships are illegal. What makes Leslie’s situation worse is that she is seemingly not attracted to any other pigs, but none other than… a wolf. Yes, a big, bad wolf. It’s that heavy-handed; we also know Leslie loves sushi and CDs because she says it within her first moments of consciousness. She seems pretty shallow and unlikeable within the initial encounter with her, and she doesn’t do much to redeem herself beyond that.
I feel like writer, artist, and colorist Mirka Andolfo could have had an adequate metaphor for same-sex struggles in our contemporary climate right now if she didn’t use it outright. Once she made it explicit it lost a lot of it’s punch and made it feel tacked on. But Andolfo really doesn’t make any of the other characters much of anything either. Instead, they feel like accessories to Leslie instead of living animals. There’s the friend and roommate, the pervy boss, and the gay best friend and that is pretty much all to them. I’m hard-pressed to even remember their names moments after re-reading the chapter.
The aspect of this book that made me the most uncomfortable was the art and simply how sexual it was. I get that this book is definitely geared towards a certain audience that desires this and the few scenes in question are drawn pretty enough. But seemingly every character is drawn so sexually; it makes me wonder why bother putting clothes on them. Besides this complaint, the art is also very plain. While not horrible, it’s definitely not the strongest reason to pick up the book, if there is one.
It’s hard to find any aspect of Unnatural #1 redeemable. I understand what Mirka Andolfo is attempting to do and who her intended audience is, but what she put out feels insulting to that audience. Surely, people can enjoy a sexual book with a decent story, writing, and art, right?