“Bucko” is a webcomic-turned-graphic novel powered by the energetic talents of its artist, Erika Moen, and its writer, Jeff Parker. The beauty of this screwball comedy murder mystery is how it remains fresh and feels spontaneous up to the end. If you caught this comic while it was a red hot web sensation, you’ll want to get the book just released by Dark Horse Comics that adds some new things to the plot and does a fun and impressive job of giving you all the bonus features you could want. There is a cute and insightful ongoing commentary running at the bottom of most pages and there’s also plenty of witty observations in between acts. So, what happens in “Bucko”? Well, it seems like just about everything!
If this episodic comedy involving youthful misadventures makes you think of the cast of “Friends,” well, don’t. But the characters in “Bucko” can sure be friendly! The first few pages lead the reader to believe that stories about hormones run wild will dominate the comic. But there’s more going on here. As Jeff Parker explains in one of the book’s intermission observations, one of the aims of the comic was to not get predictable and not have readers just hanging on for the naughty bits. It’s a delicate balance. For a story to have authority, to really be a story, all the elements will need to follow a coherent tone. There needs to be a structure in place, an engine that keeps events and characters moving. As Parker puts it, “tone is everything.”
That said, the reader wants to be entertained and that’s the bottom line. Things move fast in this comic. It is a tight script that, for a webcomic, resembles more the best in television and not a clunky comic strip from yesteryear. Rich Richardson wakes up to a classic “morning after” scene. He is naked. He has had sex with someone new. He doesn’t know where he is at first. And then, bam! he realizes he has to get up and leave for an important meeting just minutes away! His partner from last night emerges, Gypsy Bouvier, and she’s still groggy too. All she can think to call the new boy in her life is, “Bucko.” Gyp fits Bucko up with one of her blouses and finds a tie from her roommate/lover to add to his look. Roommate/lover? There’s no time to ask questions! Bucko must rush to make it in time to a job interview so he can pay his rent.
Erika Moen has a delightful light touch to her drawing style. Her autobio comics, “DAR!” show the reader a very open and uninhibited person. Moen is comfortable with any topic, anything from sex to farts is fair game. That’s the spirit! Her chemistry with Parker is undeniable. Jeff Parker, you may know, is just as in love with the offbeat. Among a stellar roster of works, including comics scripts for X-Men and the Avengers, is one wacky adventure that Jeff did with Tom Fowler called, “Mysterius The Unfathomable,” which is required reading. In that story, eccentricity prevails. And so it does in “Bucko.”
In many ways, “Bucko” is all about the journey. Boy meets girl. Girl loses boy. And then…maybe…girl and boy find each other again. And, in between, we have steampunk Makers, Juggalos, Suicide Girls, meth heads, top hats and absinthe. With the journey, comes the right mix of attitude. It was during the start of the “Bucko” webcomic that the hit television show, “Portlandia” began to air. Okay, both are set in Portland and have a high hipster factor. Do you see any conflict with that? Actually no, the more the merrier. As Parker points out in the book, “While we shared a lot of things on a Venn diagram, we became conscious of staying distinct from the show.” In that regard, “Bucko,” is definitely in its own world.
“Bucko” is a 136-page hard cover, 8″ x 8″, and is $19.99. Visit our friends at Dark Horse Comics. And, if you’re in Seattle on October 20, come out and meet Erika Moen and Jeff Parker at Comics Dungeon.