Written & Illustrated by Joe Daly
Published by Fantagaphics
Here’s another really nice thing about libraries: not only do they save you cash, not only do they prevent you from taking up huge amounts of your precious shelf space, but they’re also the best option going when you really want to sample something but aren’t quite sure about investing in it.
Many people have talked up Joe Daly’s The Red Monkey Double Happiness Book to me, and I’ve been wanting to check it out. Alas, the New York Public Library does not, to date, possess a copy. The library does carry a previous collection of Daly’s work, a 128-page compilation of various odds and ends, published by Fantagraphics in 2006. This book is titled Scrublands.
It didn’t really work for me. Having no real clue what to expect, I found Scrublands a mixed bag of unconnected strips. Ranging from three panels to forty pages, Daly certainly gives himself plenty of freedom to explore his material as he sees fit. If the material were better, it would be a more admirable quality.
The jokes don’t have any zing to them. Peculiar and surreal events occur, but don’t seem to provide any meaning beyond their oddness. The long, dreamy ramble “Prebaby,” which takes up nearly half the pages in the book, never coalesces into anything. Other strips skip right past funny and charge full-on into meanness when tearing down religious beliefs. Being an easy target only makes the joke harder to find.
And still, so many people have dug on The Red Monkey Double Happiness Book, I still want to read it. Quite a bit actually. Plenty of men and women have started creative careers with misfires after all. If I’d liked Scrublands, I’d probably buy Red Monkey. As it stands, I guess I’ll hold out for the library to obtain a copy. File this review away for later, because I’m still anticipating another encounter with Joe Daly’s work.