Review: Bob’s Burgers Volume 1

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Publisher: Dynamite

Writer(s): Chad Brewster, Jeff Drake, Justin Hook, Rachel Hastings, Mike Olsen

Artist(s): Robin Brigstocke, Bernard Derriman, Frank Forte, Tyler Garrison, Tony Gennaro, Kat Kosmala, Brad Rader, Hector Reynoso, Steven Theis, Damon Wong

Letterer: Frank Forte

Bob’s Burgers Volume 1 collects the first five issues of the new comic run based off the hit TV show. For those unaware of the Belcher family this comic will not have much appeal as there is no work done to introduce the characters or contextualise their adventures. This is a book aimed firmly at already established fans. Many of the jokes may not require the added context that knowledge of show brings but the structure of the stories themselves are based off aspects of each character’s personality.

The structure of the comic is not revolutionary, following in the footsteps of The Simpsons Comic every issues collects five short stories or excerpts of the family’s life. Every core member of the Belcher family gets an individual segment in each issue, albeit not to equal sizes. The parents are relegated to a page each while each of their three children have 6 or 7 page vignette to themselves. The general concept of these individual sections does not change issue to issue with the outlandish stories always conforming to the same basic structure.

Bob’s page is an A4 notepad in which he has scribbled some rough ideas for his infamous “Burger of the Day”; a sight-gag in each episode in which the burger of the day’s name is some groan-worthy pun. Sadly it seems like the pun is not the writing team’s forte as many of the puns provided in this section fall very flat. There is a fine line between a “good-bad pun” and a “bad-bad pun” and sadly in this section we are provided with far more of the latter. Sometimes they do not even fill a full page and stick in a diagram to fill the blank spaces. Linda’s page is similarly mostly text, in this case in the form of letters she sends to various people or magazines. Rather than capture Linda’s happy-go-lucky and painfully optimistic outlook on life these more often than not paint her as very naive.

Luckily the children of the family are given a little more life in Bob’s Burgers Volume 1. We are given fascinating insights into the awkward pubescent mindset of Tina Belcher through her “Erotic Friend Fiction”. If you have not seen the show this is exactly as it sounds, all the raunchiness of badly written fan-fiction with the main cast being written in as Tina’s various high school friends/acquaintances/crushes. Each issue gives us another volume of Tina’s impressive creative catalogue of 12A-rated fantasies. While the general concept of each is funny sometimes the story itself feels a little flat. There are some great tales such as “Butt-le Star Galac-Tina” (Tina’s space based adventures of love, survival, and butts) contain a wealth of jokes and awkward Tina-isms. While others, such as “Trick Shot Tina” (Tina’s wild west based adventures of love, survival, and butts), seem rather phoned in. In short the Erotic Friend Fiction is a mixed bag.

Gene Belcher’s sections of Bob’s Burgers Volume 1 are musicals that star Gene and his keyboard (and are presumably written by him too although this is unclear). These musical tales are imbued with Gene’s familiar gross humour and simple outlook on life all to the tune of his battery powered keyboard. These stories insist on rhyming throughout their telling and can be a bit of a drag to read if the story is not particularly interesting. For example Gene’s misadventures at Robot College are fairly unoriginal and uninteresting which brings down the pacing of the book. Luckily there are some pretty fun stories in these sections so they are often worth a read but if the constant adherence to forced rhyming gets too much for you they are easily skipped.

Bob’s Burgers Volume 1 sees Louise in detective mode in her “Unsolved Mysteries and Curious Curiosities”. These may be the most consistently well written and funny stories of the five with Louise following her own brand of logic to its troublesome conclusion. The only niggling problem with these stories is that they often become rather outlandish and unbelievable in the confines of the animated show. They would act as very fun “What If?” stories that allow the writers to play with more offbeat concepts with one of the most beloved family members if it was not for the solicitations claiming the stories were within the general continuity. Unfortunately Louise turning herself invisible or building a multi-storey box-fort (complete with a disco hall for dancing raccoons) do not really fit with the established universe. Perhaps this is an oversight from some enthusiastic solicitation writer who forget to check if the comics were indeed in continuity but it leaves Louise’s stories feeling a little out of place. While the stories centring on Gene push the suspension of disbelief it is easily written off due to it being in the format of a musical and therefore could be a story he is telling; we are not given a similar excuse for Louise’s extraordinary tales. In a general sense this is only a small problem and will only bug the pedantic and will not really interfere with the enjoyment that many will get from these otherwise well written stories.

A strength of Bob’s Burgers Volume 1 is that the writing team have a very good idea of the individual character’s voices. They are clearly big fans of the Molyneux sisters’ writing and have tried their best to capture the feel of the TV show. Unfortunately some of the best bits of the original show come from the family interacting with one another and with each member given spotlight in their tale this is often lost in translation to the comic format. It is not that the sectioning off of each character is intrinsically a bad thing but it would be nice if we were also given a story in which the family is once again the star as without that Bob’s Burgers Volume 1 feels like it is lacking substance. It’s like going to a burger restaurant and being given slider platter rather than a full meal; sure it’s nice to try different, tiny versions of the meal you love but in the end they’re just not as filling.

While the series is driven by its great puns and well written family dialogue Bob’s Burgers Volume 1 seems powered by the pastiche. From stories that parody horror classics such as Frankenstein and The Invisible Man and a musical that riffs off the (somewhat fictional) heavyweight musical showdown that was Mozart vs Salieri Bob’s Burgers Volume 1 plays off many cultural references. The various variant covers by Frank Forte that are collected at the back of this volume often continue this theme with homages to Munch’s The Scream and Dali’s The Persistence of Memory as well as more modern topics as Comic-Cons and My Little Pony.

While the art of Bob’s Burgers Volume 1 is somewhat constricted in creativity due to it mimicking the style of the TV show the various artists working on the comic do well at keeping much of the hyperactive energy that the series floats on alive in the pages of this book. With slightly more elaborate plots (as already discussed above) the artists do get an opportunity to expand out with the usual confines of the TV show. The panels generally flow well and keep the pace going even when the story itself is lagging behind.

In the end your enjoyment of this comic does hinge somewhat on how you rate the TV show its based off. Bob’s Burgers Volume 1 is certainly not a good introduction to the family and should not be substituted for the original series however it may be good for hardened fans of the show who need a little fix between series. However for fans of the show this book does capture much of the character of each of the family and something of the humour that has made the show a success. Either way Bob’s Burgers Volume 1 is best read in small, bite-sized chunks rather than in one lengthy sitting. Arguably it is probably better for fans who are also not ardent fans of the medium of comicbooks as they might be less likely to sit and attempt to read it all in one go. Fans of well structured comics with overarching plots and themes will undoubtedly feel a little short-changed by this book as it is mostly light, fluffy short stories with little more than a simple joke to push on each plot.

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