This is the second Fuzz & Pluck book, but it doesn’t matter if you haven’t read the first one (as I haven’t), since Ted Stearn introduces his characters and their current situations through short flashbacks in the first few pages of the book.
Pluck is a talking chicken with no feathers. Arrogant and a bit selfish, he’s strong-willed and resents authority. His friend Fuzz is his total opposite – a talking teddy bear who’s as warm, caring and innocent as a children’s toy should be. They both start the story working together in a fast food restaurant, Fuzz with typical enthusiasm and Pluck mostly wishing he was somewhere else. Fuzz gets sent on an errand to deliver a sandwich on his tricycle but gets accosted by a dog, taken in by an obsessive bear-loving child and must try to escape this prison without arousing suspicion.
Meanwhile Pluck gets sacked for fighting a customer but is taken on by a mysterious lady who leads a team of animal gladiators. If that sounds weird, you’ve not seen anything yet – wait until you meet Sourpuss, a giant cross between a lemon and an insect, who leads the rival gladiator team. It’s a surreal story but it’s grounded by its gentle, rolling humour and emotional honesty. It may be a series of strange characters experiencing a lot of odd people and things, but the way they feel about their journeys and express their emotions, is charming and believable.
Although it sounds like it might be, the story isn’t particularly violent. The gladiatorial elements are more gameshow than Gladiator, since the animals aren’t fighting to the death, the winners earn generous salaries and they’re free to leave when they want. Nor is it a run-of-the-mill talking animal story, ready to be dismissed as aimed at children. It is, however, an engaging story, with archetypical but empathetic characters – a buddy story that just happens to revolve around a chicken and a teddy.
The surreal talking animal story is a sub-genre of comics in its own right, and this is a worthy addition to its ranks. If you like books like Alias the Cat or Fluffy, check this out too – it’s in the same spirit and you’re sure to enjoy it.