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)


About El Santo

Somehow ended up reading and reviewing almost 300 different webcomics. Life is funny, huh? Despite owning two masks, is not actually a luchador.

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.

  1. Did you forget to mention the writing?

    There’s no question that this comic is a marvel to look at, but in reading it I was a little disappointed that the storytelling wasn’t nearly as polished as the art. Peachi\Gigi\whatever is so tremendously clever with her satirical comics and is generally a funny person with a sharp sense of humour.

    There were things that stuck out horribly in my readthrough of it, like the conversation between Cucumber and Cabbage that lasts about 10 pages in this elongated half-funny half-grating attempt to sell Cabbage as a whimsical Katamari Damacy-like character. I don’t know the writing process, but it felt like this was done a page at a time because it feels very sloppy and could have been so much better with some better editing.

    And while I find it genuinely whimsical and cute and heartfelt throughout, some of the jokes fall so flat or are so badly botched that I can’t quite conceive how the author let it slip, even if it’s her first original long-form story. I think expression-based jokes like the first page shown in the review are lazy, and seem below what Gigi is capable of. There’s a reason why her comics are so often hysterical while VG Cats jokes fall flat 95% of the time. And there are terrible mis-steps that surely reflect a lack of planning and proper editing, like the page 24 “TLB Squad” joke, which is hilarious on its own but is totally wrecked by rest of the page where the characters bash it into the ground by talking about the joke for three panels

    That’s not to say there’s not some sharp writing in it, though. The story flows well, it’s easy to read and well planned out, and even the Tomato guy of the BLT Squad’s lame “squash you” line is delivered ridiculously well, like most of Gigi’s jokes are. I just think that this review omits the fact there’s at least a handful of instances of sloppy writing so far.

    Oh, and I guess it’s important that, bar the unresolved anti-little-sisters setup, the characters and story are all kind of boring? It’s fair to give the comic time to develop, but isn’t that also something to mention to potential readers who might benefit from holding back until it’s 200 pages long and the characters are more than dull personality templates with gorgeous costumes on? Right now it’s unmemorable beyond the art, which is okay if it ends up somewhere, but it’s notable that in 90 pages it hasn’t.

    • The “TLB Squad” was one of my favorite gags in the comic, stretched out portion and all.

      From my read through, there was nothing in the writing I didn’t like, and I found the characters rather enjoyable. One man’s opinion, I guess.

  2. that comic renew my faith about webcomics,

  3. Oh yeah, I almost forgot about this one!

    I don’t necessarily agree with SuitCase about the first page shown in the review – the illustration style helps to enhance the joke since all the characters are drawn so it doesn’t seem possible that their faces could do that. But yeah, there are a few problems with the writing here and there.

  4. I can’t help but feel Sir Bacon should be raised to some sort of “Legendary Hero whose exploits are always talked about but never shown” status in this comic. He’d be like Cap’n Fang from YAFGC, only made of Fuzzy Felt!

    That aside, I fell in love with the visuals almost immediately. There’s just something so disarmingly cute and cuddly about everything. Even when the jokes sometimes fell flat, I could still manage to be sold on them from looking at the expressions alone (per the course with Peachi’s hiimdaisy comics). I know it’s fairly early in the comic, but I’d have to say one of my favorite bits was pages 34-35 where Cucumber’s dad is trying reinforce the Call to Adventure step. Once again, just look at the expressions.

    Ah well, can’t wait to see Cucumber’s reaction to the other steps of the hero’s journey. I wonder who’ll be taking the place of mentor? My bets are on one of these guys:

  5. I feel like I gotta agree with Suitcase. I really, really wanted to like this comic because of the amazing artwork and adorable designs, but the writing and characters aren’t that interesting at all.

  6. are all of jelous this comic rocks!
    lover the writing and the art,,
    and not just me everyone in the forum I hang out loves it, and real life friends love it too

  7. I don’t see how determining a character’s place in the plot by sex is okay here just because sexist gender roles usually fall on women.

    Shouldn’t we be trying to move beyond pigeonholing characters into archetypes by their sex rather than taking a politically incorrect narrative structure and simply flipping the genders?

  8. I don’t know where to put this, so I’ll put it at your most recent review. You should review I’m My Own Mascot and Neglected Mario Characters. Neglected Mario Characters is from like 2000, so the jokes may be outdated.

  9. Two years later and I’m loving this comic. I just came into it with a whole lot more pages available, and while the start is bit eh in terms of writing, the adventure has become so much more fun since then that I’d rate it really strongly. If I’d come in at the same time these comments were made I’d probably agree.

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