Reading Pile: The Abominable Charles Christopher Books 1-3
I have one major regret after after Kickstarting this package deal and that's the poor decision I made in not getting the hardcover editions. These softcovers are pretty great mind you, and I really should be trying to save on my money, but in rereading the early chapters and making my way through the newer material (newer to me anyway) I was reminded in just how brilliant this series is and that it truly deserves more attention.
ACC follows Charles, a sasquatch type creature who lives in a sort of dim-witted harmony with nature. The pacing of the series follows Charles through his day to day encounters in the Cedar Forest, the story taking time to flesh out a host of animal characters in a Sunday Cartoon style of humorous arcs that fill the space behind the subtle mythology building in the background.
While Charles is clumsily making his way through elements of Sumerian myth, we get stories of married birds having spats, an enterprising skunk and a wolf trying to bust up her racketeering, the creation of D&D as envisioned by small woodland animals, the struggles of bees, and so much more gold.
Besides the charm and humanizing mini-character arcs of the happier forest animals, we also get an incredibly soul crushing (a favorite genre of mine btw) background fable about the bear Vivol. Vivol and Charles never really meet, and the Vivol arc seems to takes place in a more modern point in time than the Charles narrative (which is essentially a retelling of The Epic of Gilgamesh). And while we could just be witnessing two different points in time that might just connect thematically, it feels like something else is going on.
There are sequences in the plot where time contradictions bleed out, enhancing the jigsaw puzzle nature of the story that is slowly manifesting into a greater existential/metaphysical narrative. Some of this is subtly put forth in the various musings of the forest animals in ways that generally play out more like quick gags. Which means we should probably be listening more to the sage wisdom of random crabs we encounter on Charles path, and that there aren't many throwaway elements to this series.
As the books progress we are also treated to some amazing reinterpretations of the Gilgamesh myth that weave equal parts humor and elements of cosmic horror in a truly engaging back and forth nature. The bulk of the Charles/King Gilgamesh interactions play out as a comedy, until stuff gets very, very serious.
I was going to take my time by reading a book a night but once I started I binged through all three volumes in no time. It also doesn't hurt that the art is incredibly beautiful with a keen eye for facial expressions and body language that informs every character's personality to the fullest. Between the eye catching art and the self contained nature of most pages, ACC ends up being an addictively re-readable package that you can dip back into at anytime.
You can read the whole series for free right now, but I do recommend picking up the physical copies because A) I'm me, and B) it really doesn't hurt to support Karl Kerschl directly. Hopefully he'll have the third book available to purchase directly as well once all of the Kickstarter shipping has been handled. Regardless of how you read them, do yourself a favor and treat yourself to some Charles Christopher. It's an emotional rollercoaster that's equal parts mythology and strip funnies and it's just a brilliant example of what this medium can achieve.