Here’s another comic I received in the mail. I love getting comics in the mail. It’s a strange rush!
PS Comics is a collection of short stories starring, well, fruits and animals (dogs and cats, that is). The animals star in some, the fruits in others – never the twain shall meet! Three stories actually star things other than fruits and animals, if you must know.
There are 14 stories in the book, so it’s a nice, meaty chunk of tales. But are they any good? There’s the rub.
Well, there’s going to be some variance in quality, but overall, this is a charming comic. Lewis offers up slice-of-life stories that seem to begin when we wander into the conversation and end as abruptly, but that’s perfectly fine for the kind of tales she’s telling. The fruit stories, for instance, are all connected and center on an office, with Apple as the “star,” for lack of a better word (he’s certainly the focus overall). He pines away for co-workers, offers a shoulder to cry on when Pear gets dumped by Banana, crushes on Strawberry when she gets hired as a temp, and learns, gradually, how to stand up for himself. Ironically, standing up for himself leaves him as lonely as when he was a doormat. Lewis has a good eye and ear for office politics, and although Apple is somewhat sad and pathetic, Lewis does a nice job making him less so just because this is, well, life. It’s not too hard a leap to see a lot of ourselves in Apple, even if we’re not quite as morose as he is.
The animal stories also star some of the same characters, but they’re less connected with each other.
Lewis does some more stories about characters simply living their lives, with the animals skewing somewhat younger than the fruit – in one story, the animals are obviously supposed to be teenager-types, for instance. The animal stories also star more female characters and examine female-female relationships, from BFFs to young brides and their jealous girlfriends. That’s not to say there aren’t male animals – the longest story in the book, “Craftstival Follies,” follows a male dog and cat as they head to a craft fair. Like in the fruit stories, Lewis shows a deft touch with regular situations and how they reveal a great deal about “people.” In the three non-fruit-or-animal stories, she does this as well. There’s a nice one-page vignette about a mug (no, the mug is not a character; it’s narrated by a woman and it’s about a mug she owns) and how it might have come into the narrator’s possession; there’s a story (set in an office, presumably a different one inhabited by sentient fruit) about the awkward beginnings of a romance; and the funniest story in the book tracks the romance between a salt shaker and a sugar container. It’s this story that makes one wonder why Lewis chose fruits and animals to populate her book. She uses the fact that it’s actual sugar and actual salt very well to illuminate stages of a romance (Pepper tells Salt, “You’re a savory. You’ll always be a savory. Just forget that sweet!” to which Salt replies, “But we’re in LOVE!!!”). In the stories with the dogs and cats, she occasionally makes nods to the fact that these are, in fact, dogs and cats. But I can’t, for the life of me, figure out why she uses fruit. She doesn’t make many jokes about lemons being sour, for example. The closest she gets is that Banana is kind of a dick, which, when you think about it, makes sense. Other than that, the stories would work just as well with people.
But that’s just a curiosity, not really a complaint. It’s kind of fun watching the fruits navigating the shoals of love just like regular folk!
Lewis doesn’t do much to make her art stand out, although you can tell she can draw well. “Sugar and Salt” is laid out well, broken into stages of a romance, and she makes the humans in the office romance story lovingly geeky, which makes their attempts to connect much more believable. Other than that, she simply tells the story well without any bells and whistles. It’s not complicated art, but it gets the job done.
Lewis obviously has a good ear for dialogue and can do nice work within a seemingly mundane framework. She finds the drama in little moments of life, and wrings out of them beautiful human moments. PS Comics isn’t laugh-out-loud funny (well, except for “Sugar and Salt”), but it will make you nod and smile at the way Lewis understands the plight of people who don’t quite know how to get what they want. These are charming tales of people – so to speak – just like us, and it’s a very insightful book. You can check out some of Lewis’s stuff at her web site, linked to above. If you’re so inclined!
Tomorrow: A murder mystery! And something weirder than that! (Okay, maybe murder mysteries aren’t that weird. But there’s definitely something weirder than it.)