How Lee & Kirby's "Fantastic Four" Birthed the Marvel Universe, Part 1
Gigi D.G.’s Cucumber Quest is one phenomenally goofy webcomic. All the characters are bunny people adorably rendered like plushies. Seriously, their heads are so round and fuzzy I wannna squeeze them until they pop. As if they weren’t cute enough, a lot of the characters are also dressed up like foods. Princess Parfait is covered in strawberries, Sir Carrot sprouts orange roots and Sir Bacon has wavy brown hair that looks like savory foodstuffs. Later, they encounter characters who are festooned with seashells or have mouths as wide as cymbals.
The bright, candy-colored look makes it easy to dismiss Cucumber Quest as baby stuff. The comic is all-ages, true, but it’s also brimming with the sort appeal that made Adventure Time and The Powerpuff Girls such a hit with adults. The comedy tickles in its cheerfulness and its lack of cynicism.
Generally, anyway. There is a unifying theme that being a hero is totally bunk. Our “hero” Cucumber just want to go to magic school, but he’s forbidden to do so by his family. Although he has a more capable sister named Almond, it’s reminded time and time again that little sisters don’t get to be heroes.
The entire system seems, from the beginning, to be gamed to force Cucumber into heroism. It turns out his imprisoned father can leave his jail cell at any time, and the Dream Oracle, who sets Cucumber on his quest, becomes increasingly weary about the boy’s reluctance to do the heroic thing. Time and time again, Cucumber encounters solutions that could end his journey once and for all … but the option is taken away from him by the “good guys” who complain that the easy solution would close out the adventure far too quickly.
Most of the villains, in fact, seem to be weary themselves of the endless cycle of antagonism. Cucumber manages to reason with one enemy about the futility of their struggle, and while the advice doesn’t take, and the Death Weapon does launch, Cucumber does perhaps stumble into the truth: that maybe it’s the system that’s sinister. That also may be why Cucumber is the ideal hero. He may be no bruiser like his sister, but he’s a born thinker, and that might be the key to winning the day.
Heavy stuff, perhaps, but it doesn’t detract from the silly fun to be had. Reading the comic is like watching a Saturday morning cartoon. There’s a host of crazy recurring characters: the thief Saturday, who’s the somewhat-inept Team Rocket to our intrepid explorers; four-eyed mad scientist Cosmo, who bedevils our heroes every time they journey from one land to the next; and bombastic superhero Commander Caboodle, Champion of Justice. The visual gags are great, too. There’s a great moment where Princess Nautilus explains how some people will never like you, and the frozen expression on her face makes it apparent she’s taking things very personally. There’s also a great moment when Cucumber meets a fellow magician, and all he learns is a useless spell that summons giant bathtub drains.
And, man, that art. Most everything is done in a pleasingly soft color palette. The soft edges, the lack of dark outlines, and pink tint of scenes with Princess Parfait make me understand why some little girls go gaga for this sort of thing. But then you get something bold and jazzy, such as when the team meets a villain whose main weapon is music. The comic then gets drawn in sharp angles and hard edges like it was made of graffiti. Then there are the times when everyone’s prettied up and the more focused style starts to look like a Japanese anime. The story is fun and more polished than a lot of webcomics I’ve read, but even if that weren’t the case I’d still be recommending Cucumber Quest on the art alone.
It’s so, so pretty.