Ansis Purins' Zombre #2 The Magic Forest dropped out of nowhere on me last week. I wasn't familiar with Purins' work beforehand and therefore missed Zombre #1. Purins won a Xeric grant earlier this year for this project so it's great to see the finished comic out in the wild. It's a really well done production clocking in at 48 pages and you can get it at his website.
Purins' pitch for the comic is “It’s Harry Potter meets Yogi Bear meets Night Of The Living Dead!” I don't know about that, but there is something oddly charming about this very low key, sweet tale of a magical (in a sort-of-Saturday morning cartoon kind of way) forest. Zombre is, well a zombie, but a friendly one who has apparently kicked the brains habit. It's a reinvention of zombie as nonthreatening and cuddly forest creature.
Purins does a nice job of constructing several little vinettes with different characters through which Zombre lumbers his way. Purins doesn't have a ton of time to spend on each character, but he does well to give all his characters a strong visual identity and some more obvious personality traits. Besides Zombre, I think the character I liked best was Ranger Martin Elvis who is a little bit frentic and scatter-brained. His boss, the somewhat mysterious Ranger Jones wakes him up as the comic begins.
The heart of the book, however, seemed to lie with the interaction between an overprotective, high-strung Dad and his daughter Acorn who make their way to the park to camp and of course, run into Zombre. I don't even know how to describe the whole scene between all of them — it's so full of odd and almost creepy details. On one level it does give the Dad and the daughter a chance to work past some grief over a lost mother that is probably underlying the Dad's overprotective instincts. On another level, I'm wondering if they all had an acid trip together.
Purins' art is pretty good. It ventures between an almost Johnny Ryan-like kinetic, crude slapstick to much more intricately detailed scenery. He's got a good sense for arranging things — I liked the variety in the panel structure and there are some nice points where he uses the height of the book to link panels in a meta way (for example when the Dad is tossing the trash in the middle tier panel, hitting Zombre on the head in the lower tier panel). Turning the odd cute/creepy scene with Zombre, Acorn the girl, the bugs and the birds on its side was also a nice choice.
I liked the book – it was a pleasant surprise to read and reread this past weekend. If what I've described sounds like something you might like, it's definitely worth taking a chance on picking up.
The creator provided a free copy of the comic to ComixTalk for review purposes.