Sequential State – the comics criticism archive of Alex Hoffman

Review: Chicken Boy by Vinnie Neuberg

Hi folks! Welcome back!

I’ve been running on an empty tank, so apologies for the lack of writing over the past few weeks. We call extended hardships winters, and that feels especially true this year, in this season.

In an effort to get back into the swing of writing, I’ve decided to dig into some older material that I’ve had laying around. I recently excavated some boxes of mini comics in my mess of an office, and I’ve been reading through them this week. One such comic is Vinnie Neuberg’s Chicken Boy. Neuberg sent a copy of Chicken Boy to me in the spring last year. A 32-page saddle-stitched comic printed in orange and blue by Pyrite Press, Chicken Boy tells the story of a boy who is also a chicken, and who saves his town from a scheming corporate pig named Loomis. At the time I received it, I read through and it ended up stored away for future review… and sadly stayed there for nine months. During this recent (and much needed) deep cleaning, I’ve come across the book again, and had a few quick thoughts.

One of the things that is relatively rare in indie comics is good kid-friendly work. Comics for kids are the heart of the children’s book market, where cartoonists like Raina Telgemeier sell literal millions of copies of books. And while Telgemeier came out of the SPX scene, it’s a linkage that hasn’t really manifested as strongly as I thought it would. It might be that the comics that are getting made aren’t that good, or that the stories folks are telling in indie comics right now don’t lend themselves to that audience.

But I think Chicken Boy bucks that general trend. It’s a very classic story, Sunday-cartoons style, and Neuberg tackles the material with a gusto. The main character, Chicken Boy, has a big heart and rescues a bully who has been kidnapped. Chicken Boy has its roots in strong comic traditions, but also in TV media like Power Rangers, and in a way, feels fresh and lively. I appreciated Neuberg’s compositions and liked that Neuberg sets up Chicken Boy as something of a grandfather’s bedtime story for grandkids. None of it feels new, specifically, but it’s a synthesis of a lot of different inputs that works really well.

The book is light, almost wispy, but at its core is solid color, illustration, and design. And I think that Chicken Boy is the kind of book I’d love to give to a young person in my life. It is fun, funny, and irreverent. What more could you ask for from a comic?

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