by Chris Onstad
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Format: Hardcover, 7.75 x 9.5, full color, $14.95
Reviewed by: Publishers Weekly
This handsome hardcover compilation of the popular Web comic Achewood follows the strip's most epic story arc and should win many new fans. When Ray Smuckles, a thong-clad anthropomorphic cat, discovers his father was a champion of the Great Outdoor Fight, a yearly competition held in Bakersfield, Calif., he decides to enter the nearly ruleless three-day fight. Ray's best friend, nicknamed Roast Beef, reveals himself to be an expert on the fight as well as a first-time entrant. Ray quickly finds that his soft life as a pencil-neck may not have prepared him for the brutal, masculine violence the 3,000-man fight promises, but stubbornly aims to win anyway, with Roast Beef as his ally and steadfast supporter. The humor works on many levels—from the absurd, unexpected characters, including a Soviet robot, to their quirky speech patterns. Onstad's minimalist art leaves some of the larger action sequences taking place off-camera. Nevertheless, the narrative shines through as an epic battle rages and friendship between the protagonists deepens. Achewood devotees who know the story line will be pleased with the bonuses: long supplemental texts detailing the history of the fight and seven recipes from a fictional cookbook.