“I like to eat! Naptime smiles on Go-Go chest!”
I can’t be expected to resist a comic that has dialogue like that, can I?
Kirby Steinberg has transferred for Forest Edge High School, and she hasn’t come alone. At the behest of her primate researcher father, she’s brought three talking primates along with her to help them learn more about human society. Whether human society is ready for them is another question.
Chuck is an immensely intelligent orangutan, and in the tradition of immensely intelligent comic characters, he’s condescending. Chimpanzee Knobby is a smooth-talking ladies man. Kirby claims he learned English from romance comics, but he seems more like a crooner from the 1940s to me. Then there’s Go-Go, the gorilla. Go-Go isn’t quite as advanced as his comrades. When he speaks, it’s generally in reference to bananas (and his ownership of same) or napping (which he does often and without warning). I’m a little in awe of Go-Go, to be honest.
With these three underfoot, Kirby’s first day at Forest Edge (heh) has its ups and downs. She makes a friend in Nickels, the star reporter for the school paper, and has an embarrassing encounter with Martin, a photographer for the paper who seems to think he’s charmingly obnoxious. (So far, he’s only half right, but it’s early yet.) Nickels thinks there’s more to the apes than Kirby is saying, and she’s determined to dig up the real story.
You learn a lot about the characters because they have a tendency to declare themselves. (“Yep, that’s me! Heroic and adorable!” “It’s who I am! I burn with curiosity!”) It could get grating, but Nibot gives these pronouncements energy and charm. It fits with the straightforward approach of the storytelling. If the script isn’t particularly sophisticated, it’s got sweetness and sincerity to spare.
The biggest attraction here is the cartooning of Colleen Coover. The apes are adorable, particularly beetle-browed Go-Go. Coover packs the pages with small, funny touches, like the sequence where Kirby and company get ready for school. She has a way with sight gags, too, making excellent use of all of the discarded banana peels. There’s a good use of screen effects and shading to give the visuals more depth. (I would love to see it in color.)
Banana Sunday has a lot going for it, particularly in Coover’s work. It’s got a cute premise and real visual flair. It’s a welcome addition to the growing roster of accomplished, engaging comics for kids.