By Joshua Krutt
We all know the standard prophesied hero story. It’s a story that shows up in fantasy quite a lot–a young child, almost invariably a boy, is unaware of his pivotal role in the world. He finds himself thrust into greatness when chaos falls upon his little village and he must take up the sword to save the world. It’s a formula that works pretty well, really–it’s a cliché, sure, but you can easily make a good story out of it.
Cucumber Quest is not that story. It has some of the trappings, but it isn’t that story at all. The comic itself has a fairly good pedigree–it was started earlier this year by Gigi Digi, an artist and writer better known to the internet for her video game parodies under the name of hiimdaisy or peachifruit. Her ability to find the absurdity of these video game plots and display it with adorable and expressive art was noteworthy–and it’s no less so now that she is writing her own story.
The artstyle, like that of hiimdaisy, is cute and rather uninterested in realism. Instead, it favors a soft focus that puts me in mind of the impressionist movement, relying strongly on color and feeling over tiny detail. The art is impressive in its expressiveness and ability to convey a strong sense of what’s happening; the lack of tiny details is far from a detriment. Rather, it helps convey the whimsical, childlike nature of the world that the comic takes place in. And, as with her previous works, Gigi Digi’s excellence in drawing expressions shines through. The characters’ faces provide not only a wealth of humor, but also excellent characterization, conveying their thoughts and feelings in ways that the dialogue could not hope to do nearly so well.
It is this art that, I feel, really carries the comic. The writing, as I’ll discuss, is good, but without the excellent facial features and beautiful, soft art, it would not be nearly as fun to read. The set pieces seem to be straight out of an excellent children’s book, with strong colors that reinforce the mood of each area. The characters and settings often seem to be made of felt, reinforcing the feel of the comic as a children’s story that has gone entirely out of its characters’ control.
Which leads me to the Candyland-like world of the comic. That world is one unlike our own, a world of confectionery delights, magic and cheerful rabbits. The Doughnut Kingdom is threatened by the evil Queen Cordelia, who seeks to dominate the world. The world rests on the shoulders of the young rabbit Cucumber, who is a Legendary Hero.
Except that he really, really isn’t. Cucumber Quest delights in incompetence. The characters have their own strengths, of course, and even things they’re very good at. It’s just that none of them are really any good at doing what they are supposed to do. Cucumber is a nerdy, bookish rabbit much more at home with legends and basic magic than swords, while his little sister Almond is an adventurous and physically daunting fighter.
Not that her skills matter to the legend–she’s a little sister, a role to which she could not possibly be worse suited. The story’s Prologue has only just ended, but it has already shown that this is not going to be a rare event. While the plot is not, perhaps, the most original, the writing is a delight to read. The dialogue is quick-paced and fun, with the characters coming through strongly. In the first six pages or so, it is already clear what the dynamic between Cucumber and Almond is, and it ia familiar dynamic indeed to anyone with siblings.