“Bee and Puppycat” #1 is an unusual debut comic by Natasha Allegri, Garrett Jackson and Madeleine Flores. It follows the “Bee and Puppycat” animated short that was a very successful Kickstarter project. Most debuts go heavy on plot and lean on exposition to reel in the reader. “Bee and Puppycat” #1 does some traditional world-building, but it leans much more heavily on charm and atmosphere.
The plotting is unhurried and loose. Allegri and Jackson begin with a dream sequence strong on contextual characterization. It sets a tone of floaty, dreamy whimsy. Allegri’s art is graceful but also cute, emphasizing the roundness of the characters. Her panel composition has a very strong sense of design that reinforces the feeling of being in Bee’s dream. Wilson’s creative lettering, particularly the script for Bee’s thoughts, complements the artwork perfectly. Seery’s palette is cool-toned and light and airy like candy. The loveliness of his color combinations contributes greatly to the ethereal emotional effects.
There isn’t a lot of dialogue, but Allegri and Jackson make those few lines count towards illuminating the characters. The child and pet combination is a classic that ends up being recycled all the time, but Allegri proves that she’s making something new and not just making a “Adventure Time with Fionna and Cake” redux. The relationship between Bee and Puppycat and the story itself are already stranger and less linear than “Adventure Time” adventures, which are already pretty zany.
The plot, though, barely steps outside the opening scene. The abrupt ending cuts the rising action off just as it starts to rise. Some readers will be miffed at this lack of forward motion. More importantly, though, the ending does some injustice to the medium. Comics are a serial format, like TV episodes, and thus each installment should have a shape while contributing to the overarching shape of the larger story. Allegri and Jackson probably didn’t have enough room and didn’t want to rearrange to story to fit, but they do a disservice to readers who aren’t trade-waiting.
The same goes for the backup story, “What Happened” by Madeleine Flores, which is more traditional in tone. Flores’ art is just as engaging and cute as Allegri’s, but also more conventional. It’s less of a story than a teaser, cutting the reader off just after the central conflict is introduced and a flashback begins. Flores writes some great interaction between Bee and Puppycat the opening sequence, and her background details of seafood are excellent.
In both Allegri’s story and Flores’ story, the sequences with Puppycat’s employers are the most visually sterile. This is partly due to the computer aesthetic, and Wilson does a good story in the main story of making the word bubbles visual elements in their own right. Nevertheless, it’s feels not only jarring but also disappointing when the reader as well as Bee and Puppycat are pulled out of the rich “real” world to the “work” space.
Overall, “Bee and Puppycat” #1 is a debut with great imagination and style. The tone is unusually complex, surreal and tender with hints of joy and grief. While the art taken panel by panel is strong, it ignores the monthly format and the traditional need for the plot to develop more quickly, but this may be less of an issue in subsequent issues.