Cyanide and Happiness: Punching Zoo ReviewAuthors: Kris Wilson, Rob Denbleyker, Matt Melvin, Dave McElfatrick
Release Date: September 30, 2014
Source: BOOM!Box Press Site
My philosophy: Come for the sarcasm and stay for the puns.
For those of you who don’t know, Cyanide and Happiness comics are a series of wildly inappropriate, frequently dark, and always sarcastic stick figure comics featured on explosm.net.Cyanide and Happiness gets off in the most literal of senses on walking the line between high-brow humor and penis jokes. I saw Rob at Phoenix ComicCon this past summer, and he drew me a lovely signed picture for my sixteen-year old brother.
Of a stick figure masturbating.
It’s now framed on his bedroom wall and I can rest easy as an older sister knowing that I probably cock-blocked any sort of action he will ever have in there for at least the next two years.
Anyone who regularly reads Kris, Robb, Matt, and Dave’s comics over on their site can tell you that they don’t just visit the edge of propriety, they’ve pretty much set up a permanent settlement there- complete with cancer jokes and zombie Jesus.
Punching Zoo is the third publication the artists over at C&H have released, and it includes a foreword from Alexis Ohanian, one of the co-founders of Reddit, if that gives you an idea of how big of a fan base these comics have garnered.
The book itself is split into three major categories: 124 pages of old comics, 30 new ones, and a lengthy choose-your-own adventure story.
The choose your own adventure portion of the book was a nice twist- you’re getting ready for a hot date, but before you can get out the door, you have to choose a hat, make your ungrateful, drug addict son Timmy dinner, and eventually fight off a gang of terrorists.
Overall, the arrangement of the first two portions of the book containing the comics themselves don’t have much structure, which is something I’m not entirely satisfied about personally. Sometimes you’ll read a joke about Schrodinger’s cat, and then on the next page you’ll have a joke about genies.
The book lacks cohesion, so sometimes the transitions from comic to comic are a bit jarring. The only constant from page to page is that the two comics are drawn by the same member of the gang.
That being said, I had a strong preference for the new comics over the old ones. It might be just because I’ve followed C&H regularly for the past few years, but I’m a bit tired of the reprints. The reprints tend to have more of the ‘questionable’ material that comes off as outright offensive instead of funny.
We’re talking school shootings and rape jokes.While I understand that that’s the brand of humor you sign up for when you read this book, there’s a very clear difference between subverting or criticizing the culture which allows for these horrible tragedies, and feeding into that culture itself.
Personally, I love Cyanide and Happiness for their sarcastic humor, but I feel like most of their more offensive material falls flat- especially when their comics poke fun at sensitive issues such as domestic abuse or national tragedies (e.g. 9/11). But just like the foreword very pointedly says, the merits of this book partially lie in the fact that it is not editorialized and censored like newsprint comics of the past.
Then again, I feel like that’s a nice excuse to print derogatory things about women and victims of tragedy without taking any personal responsibility for normalizing these subjects.
That being said, most of the time this mix between obscene and intellectual works. I have a strong preference for nearly anything Kris writes, because he has some of the best science puns you will ever experience- many of which end up taped up to my biology research lab’s front door along with xkcd and PhD Comics. I don’t love what Dave contributes to the mix, because his jokes fall into the crude humor and offensive-without-being-clever category.
Final thoughts: I’d say this book hits the mark about 3/4 of the time, which is just enough to keep flipping the pages. All in all, it’s a fairly good time if you turn your brain off for the other 1/4 . I’d recommend this book to fans of C&H specifically for the 30 new comics, but it might not be the best way of turning someone new on to the comics’ signature dark humor.