Chimichanga, with writing and art by the multi-talented Eric Powell, is his first foray into comics for kids. In typical Powell fashion (which should tell you that this is going to be atypical for any other comic book creator) is about a bearded girl named Lula and her adventures with a traveling circus. This is a less bleak tale than The Goon but much more positive, as the main character is spunky and has a can-do attitude. Comparisons to The Goon are unavoidable but I’m going to try as much as possible to analyze the book on its own merits. Originally appearing in 3 issues published through Powell’s Albatross Exploding Funny Books label, this review is of the recently released hardcover edition that is published by Dark Horse.
Writer & Artist: Eric Powell
Publisher: Dark Horse
Age: All Ages
The premise of the story is that little Lulu works at her grandfather’s traveling circus, but times are tough and the circus doesn’t do as well as it used to. They have a bunch of performers that can’t seem to draw a crowd like the good old days, and this may or may not have to do with the fact that none of them are really all that amazing.
The Amazing Randy, for example, has the strength of a slightly larger man, and that’s his whole shtick (“Gasp at his ability to open pickle jars!”). But we love the characters all the same because they put in so much effort and they’re remarkable all the same if not for their qualities as circus performers. Lula trades some of her beard hair to a witch for a strange egg and that egg hatches to become Chimichanga, a mangy monster that Lulu accepts and befriends. Along the way there are problems with the witch and a pharmaceutical company but the core of the book is always that friendship between the Lulu and Chimi.
Chimichanga deals with serious topics in absurd ways, it touches upon themes of love, family, greed, accepting people for who they are, loyalty and human indifference. All the while seen through the innocent eyes of a (bearded) child. The idea of tolerance is spread on every page of the book, whether by offering up examples of how people are intolerant or by showing Lula’s immediate acceptance of Chimichanga.
The art is outstanding as usual for Eric Powell. The characters are all unique and well-defined. Chimichanga looks like a giant, shaggy, googly-eyed monster dog. The circus performs reek of “carny” and somehow that’s a good thing. They are all amazing at doing average things and it makes the circus scenes very charming. As an example of how the book endeared itself to me I will say that I hate clowns and find them terrifying, but I somehow couldn’t help but love Gene the Indifferent Clown. The plot does involve a greedy pharmaceutical company and all those characters look appropriately sleazy. The fact that they have no conscience comes across in their actions and the way they are depicted.
Overall we have a very funny story that is all ages and is filled with strange characters, stranger situations and an underlying warmth from the book’s message. Any library would be commended for having this in its children’s section and it makes a great gift to fans of awesome books, young or old.
I recommend it strongly and the whole handsome hardcover package will cost you $14.99 at your local fine comic book emporium.