The Webcomic Overlook #184: Cucumber Quest
The artwork for Gigi Digi’s Cucumber Quest is so adorable that you start to wonder why this isn’t a webcomic that has a hundred different kinds of t-shirts on display in its virtual storefront. In an alternate universe, shirts sporting different kinds of Cucumber Quest characters would be seen on the racks at the local Fuego, on iPad slipcases, on backpacks, wallets, and purses, and on a baby’s disposable diapers. Cucumber Quest characters would give Hello Kitty and My Little Pony a run for their money.
Cucumber Quest is filled with cute rabbits with big fuzzy faces and rounded ears. Ms. Digi’s art makes you just want to cradle their soft, huggable heads of our two principle characters, Cucumber and Almond. You want to nuzzle their hair affectionately, which no doubt carries the refreshing fragrance of fresh cut vegetables or the faint sweetness of roasted nuts. Ms. Digi doesn’t ink the outlines and renders her characters in soft tones and brush strokes (or whatever passes for brushstrokes in the computer art world), which increases the adorability by a factor of squee.
Some cute touches slip your attention initially, but when you catch on, you can’t help but smile. One character named Carrot, for example, has hair that’s bundled up to look like carrots. Cute! But then you notice that another character named Dame Lettuce has lovely locks that look like lettuce leaves. And then you notice Sir Bacon’s coiffure, which looks like little strips of everybody’s favorite savory breakfast. The visual and verbal cues engages senses beyond the visual. It’s hard to see and read about Sir Bacon without also imagining the smoky, alluring aroma of sizzling pork fat. In a way, the food’s characteristics subliminally add to his personality.
As you might expect of a place where the characters are all bunnies who are named after foods, the color palette is bright and sunny and maybe even a little girly. But, really, what can you expect when one of the principle locations is a giant tiramisu? The world is awash in baby blues and sherbet orange and strawberry pink. You half expect Strawberry Shortcake to show up at some point. (She very nearly does.) It also gives you a nice warm feeling inside.
But lest you think you wandered into the webcomic equivalent of a baby shower, let me tell you something important: it’s all a front. The highly adorable visuals — I think this is the third time I’ve used “adorable” by the way, and it’s hard to describe this comic in any other words — are meant to distract you from the fact is dripping with some unexpectedly snarky (but never mean-spirited) humor.
Cucumber Quest starts with our villainess, Cordelia, planning no less than WORLD DOMINATION! This involves collecting a bunch of
Dragonballs Disaster Stones to summon a large, horned fellow called the Nightmare Knight, an ancient terror who has currently been sealed away. A noble named Cabbage, who’s stationed in Doughnut Kingdom, panics and shoots off a letter to his family. He calls for his son, Cucumber to put an end to this and to become a man.
Cucumber, though, doesn’t want to go. He wants to go to Puffington’s Academy for the Magically Gifted And/Or Incredibly Wealthy, partly to prove to his father that higher education is no waste of time. Unfortunately, everybody wants him to go on this quest. His mom kicks him out of the house. The magical, fairy-like Dream Oracle bestows upon him the status of legendary hero who must restore peace to the world.
However, Cucumber figures that, really, it’s not his problem. After all, shouldn’t a person called “the Dream Oracle” be the one doing the heavy lifting? Wouldn’t it be easier to destroy the Disaster Stones to prevent the resurrection of the Nightmare Knight? Cucumber is too clever for his own good. He’s the legendary hero who can unfortunately see all the plot holes in Campbellian mythmaking. However, he also sees that he doesn’t have much choice in the matter, so he goes along begrudgingly.
There’s a bit of a feminist undercurrent in Cucumber Quest. Cucumber is incompetent, but everyone pushes him to be the hero of the story. Meanwhile, his spunky little sister, Almond, is forbidden to join him on his adventures. “Little sisters aren’t legendary heroes,” says the Dream Oracle. So of course, Almond does all the butt-kicking with little to her credit while Cucumber is reduced to the role of spectator.
The rest of the men are pretty useless. When we first see Carrot, a sort of secondary hero on a quest to rescue the Princess Parfait, we see him hiding in a tree from a scary bear … who really isn’t all that scary once you get to know him. Cucumber’s dad is lazy, manipulative, but overall ineffective. The only guy who isn’t useless is Sir Tomato … and he’s really just acting as a henchman for the much more powerful Cordelia. Women, on the other hand, are the clever ones: conquering kingdoms, thieving priceless weaponry, fighting battles, etc.
That may be a point of contention for some. I assure you, though, that none of it is preachy. Besides I’ve read enough fantasy novels to know that, for a lot of them, the female characters are usually annoying traveling companions that are tolerated, there for the sole purpose of getting the hero to move to the next spot, or non-existent. Yes, even plenty of the ones with a female protagonist. But a fantasy epic where the men are stuck in those roles? That’s actually a pretty clever inversion of the standard Campbellian formula.
Besides, Cucumber is not totally useless. It’s just that he’s not cut out for the particular task of saving the world. He’d probably be much happier going to school. Or baking a cake. Being the Chosen One, though? That’s not his thing. To coin a phrase from Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, sometimes you got to know your role.
Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)
Posted on September 15, 2011, in 5 Stars, adventure webcomic, all ages webcomic, fantasy webcomic, funny animal webcomic, furry webcomic, The Webcomic Overlook, WCO Big Review, webcomics. Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.