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Sunnyville Stories Volume 1 Paperback – July 9, 2012
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"This book is best for...readers who are looking for a graphic novel with clean artwork and an idyllic story line." --Library Journal Xpress Reviews, Dec. 2012
"Sunnyville Stories Volume 1" is an anthology of the first three episodes or installments of the independent alternative comic series, "Sunnyville Stories." In the world of Sunnyville, black and white cartoon teenage cat friends, Rusty and Samantha encounter unusually familiar issues (from human society), enacted by old-fashioned, retro-dressed anthropomorphic animals, coons, bears, squirrels, and other oddly human-looking cats. Rusty and Samantha tackle issues of loneliness, moving traumas, games and peer pressure, cheating, stealing, and the ups and downs of friendships, adolescent, animal, human, or other. "Sunnyville Stories" has some of the taste of Walt Kelly's Pogo and the inhabitants of the Okefenokee, an old popular comic series from the early 50's. Daily truths about human interactions are somehow more palatable when expressed by oddly dressed, humanoid- looking animals. It's kind of a safe experiment using a different mirror to look at ourselves. "Sunnyville Stories" is destined to become a mainstream hit, but will probably never lose its alternative style and bite. The ultimate message appears to be somewhat hopeful and optimistic, although with strange undercurrents. --Midwest Book Review Bookwatch, June 2013
About the Author
Max West is an artist & writer born and raised in New York City. He currently lives in Fargo, North Dakota.
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And often Max does use his simple style to great effect, with pages that look more designerly than cartoony. There's an especially beautiful one in the second chapter that is quite striking in its representation of an idyllic landscape.
For children, there's morals to be learned here about being nice to others and how to be a "good loser." Sunnyville seems like a nice safe, nurturing world for kids to learn and grow in, full of open fields and trees, and winding stretches of dirt road. I suspect that West got a lot of his inspiration from his own memories of places like Sunnyville.
For adults, you may enjoy these stories if you remember the gentler shows from the 80s like Maya the Bee, Maple Town, or the Noozles. While the art isn't as slick as those, there's similarities in the storytelling style of West.
Max West's Sunnyville Stories may not be for everyone, but for those who can read it and appreciate it for what it is will most assuredly have a good time in Sunnyville.
You won’t find any superheroes, or femme fatales. Sunnyville Stories will remind you more of Steamboat Willy, the precursor to Mickey Mouse (if you’re old enough to remember, or have any sense of comic history). Or perhaps the old Little Rascals serials that played out on televisions in the afternoons when it was raining and our parents wouldn’t let us go outside and play. (Yes, I write from a generation when we didn’t want to sit inside in front of the TV unless Tarzan was on and then it was back outside to jump off fences.)
West doesn’t draw slick characters, he draws in the primitive black and white style of the thirties Merrie Melodies and Fleischer Studios animations, and the stories feature a lot of slapstick comedy. His characters are animals, mostly cats, but also bears, turtles and dogs living in rural America with jobs as cops, grocers, and even petty thieves.
The stories focus on the teen cat Rusty, whose family moves from the city to Sunnyville, which has no theater, no video arcade, department store or even fast food restaurant. It does have families who resettled from all over the world, and Rusty must find a place for himself in this multi-cultural mix. Fortunately, his neighbor Samantha takes an immediate liking to him, perhaps because he’s the only available tomcat her age in Sunnyville.
Expect subtle, not boisterous; chuckles, not belly laughs; to enjoy, not be overwhelmed. But that’s the point of a good cherry. You sip it; you don’t gulp it down. It’s rough in places, but that happens with indie comics. You can’t expect the same smooth product every time. It’s why I like wines from small vineyards, and established vineyards; espresso from Starbucks, which I can count on to deliver the same flavor I enjoy, and espresso from the local shops which will always be different each time I sit down to new a cup.
Phillip T. Stephens is the author of Cigerets, Guns & Beer and Raising Hell.
I love this book. It's old-fashioned cartooning mixed with clever wit and wholesome storytelling. Most importantly, Max's comic series has the one thing that's missing from the mainstream comics of today: heart.
There's a soul to this book, one that made me feel good inside when reading it. The art is classic cartooning, with that down-to-earth quality that I love about indie comics. The stories are simple, relatable and enjoyable.
Do I want to read the next volume of Sunnyville Stories? You bet I do!
Count me a fan. This book is good stuff.