Here’s another review by our newest writer, Michael May—that’s him over on the right!
by the Etherington Brothers
David Fickling Books
The Etherington Brothers, Robin and Lorenzo, aren’t household names in the U.S., but they do very well for themselves in their native U.K. I first became aware of them through their black-and-white, self-published Malcolm Magic series—following the fantastical adventures of an anthropomorphic rabbit—several years ago. These days, their comics take the form of attractive, full-color, oversized, hardcover albums from David Fickling Books, an imprint of Random House UK.
As with Malcolm Magic and the rest of the Etherington Brothers’ work, Baggage features funny animal characters, a description that applies to the book’s actual sense of humor as well as to its genre. It follows the adventures of Randall, the incompetent Lost-and-Found attendant at a big city tram station. When Randall screws up one too many times, his boss delivers him an ultimatum: prove his competency by returning the oldest piece of lost luggage to its rightful owner by midnight… or find a new job.
What follows is a madcap romp through Triptych City as Randall uses what meager detective skills he has to track down the owner of a battered, old suitcase. Fortunately, the bag is covered with stickers that provide clues. Also good is that Randall doesn’t have to work alone. As he investigates, he picks up help from his homeless friend Lucky, a clever milkshake vendor named Mica, and Kong, a little, yellow bird who’s also a greedy collector of sports memorabilia.
Except for Kong, the main characters of Baggage are visually non-descript animals (their personalities, on the other hand, are anything but common). They’re sort of like those generic citizens in Mickey Mouse and Casper comics where you can’t really tell what kind of animal they are. They could be cats, dogs, ferrets… it’s really not important. Not that the Baggage characters look anything like Disney or Harvey characters, drawn as they are in Lorenzo Etherington’s distinct, wonderfully detailed and expressive style.
Together, the Etheringtons have created a fun, whimsical world populated by some extremely endearing characters. The vehicles are imaginative, the architecture is inspired, and they’ve even created their own sport: a wildly complicated game that features enormous teams, multiple balls, and a tiered field and looks like a cross between soccer, American football, checkers, and fishing.
The page layouts are just as inventive. The oversized format gives them room for lots of panels when needed, but also for crazy, Where’s Waldo-like spreads that let readers spend as long as they like exploring the environment. It reminds me of reading Richard Scarry books when I was a kid, imagining what it would be like to live in that joyful, animal-filled world and wondering what kinds of stories might take place there. Baggage is just as immersive.
And while the Etheringtons’ book tells a definite story, its world is so fleshed out that—like those Richard Scarry books—there’s plenty of space for readers to mythologize and create their own adventures about Randall, his friends, or simply one of the countless, equally intriguing background characters.