Reading Bueno the Bear is like being let in on a really good inside joke — you can be laughing all the way through, if you’re in the right frame of mind. Created by Pendleton Ward, Bueno the Bear exposes us to a bear and a handful of his friends as they do everything from pounce on bugs to stare at the sky.
Bueno is a happy-go-lucky fellow, despite having his melancholy moments. Penelope the Piddlebug is shy, and Giovanni the Giraffe is the pluckiest one of the trio. One could even draw comparisons to the Hundred Acre Wood, with Penelope and Giovanni serving as the respective “Piglet” and “Tigger” to Bueno’s “Pooh”.
Bueno fits a realm of web comics I can’t categorize, but can recognize. Each strip is a flexible experiment of art and writing that excuses itself by being so unassuming it’s downright charming; it brings to mind a gentler, more organic Pokey the Penguin, or an unrefined Boxjam’s Doodle.
The writing tends to ramble, but in a freewheeling way rather than a lackluster one. Also, it is self-aware but doesn’t act self-aware. Bueno never overtly says “I’m in a web comic,” but there are times (such as his “depression” comic) when he realizes his whole life is one long punch line and just goes with the flow.
Ward’s art is minimalist and sloppy, but intentionally so – often mere pencil sketches on random scraps of paper, torn and scanned without cleanup. Sometimes the drawing and text get so crude and hurried it’s confusing, but on the whole, the art fits the paradoxically clean and sketchy mood of the comic.
The website is easy to navigate and its look matches that of the comics themselves – sketchy and simple. Each page is thumbnailed on a convenient sidebar; moreover, the comics can include novelties like “The Forever Comic” (a continuously updated page that continues far beyond the screen), or the “Make-Your-Own” Comic (which lets you move the panels around like Colorforms).
While Bueno the Bear is no masterpiece, it’s certainly more than it seems. If you want a serious, compelling webcomic, look elsewhere. If you want fluffy fun, Bueno may be bueno for you.