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Achewood: The Great Outdoor Fight


Achewood: The Great Outdoor Fight

The Great Outdoor Fight by Chris Onstad is deceptively sophisticated and very funny. A sort of “special edition” version of a storyline from his webcomicAchewood, the book is a treat for fans of the online strip and those who’ve never heard of it (I fell into the latter category). Ignorant of what I was in for, I began with the book’s two introductory text pieces that discuss the history and cultural significance of the Great Outdoor Fight—a strange competition with its origins in two intoxicants: cheap wine and California.

Strange as it is in its depiction, the GOF is written about with such conviction that I actually believed it was real. As such, I was completely unprepared for the anthropomorphic animals talking about “trucknutz” knock-offs that greeted me on the first page of the book’s actual story. Things get stranger from here.

What proceeds is one character’s quest to follow in his father’s footsteps as the top dog in this year’s Great Outdoor Fight, which will include lots of scheming, plotting, and violent beatings. Don’t be fooled by the simple drawings; if it were a movie, this book would be rated a hard PG-13 or a light R.

Even still, appropriateness aside, the book is extremely funny and often had me laughing out loud with glee. The strength of The Great Outdoor Fight is its ability to completely and utterly undercut all seriousness, be it the sudden and shocking violence with which the characters fight at the end of the book or the idea behind the fight itself. The characters elevate the concept of the Great Outdoor fight to mythic, almost religious proportions and proceed to celebrate its glory in the most absurd ways. Ray, the “hero” of the story, engages in the fight’s customary turkey dinner and cheap bottle of brandy, ensuring that one of the fight’s most important traditions continues. Repeatedly deflating the “serious” with the silly keeps readers on their toes and keeps the story hilarious.

The aforementioned visuals, also provided by Onstad, are not at all flashy and may even have been drawn on a computer tablet. This is not a detriment, however; the lack of detail or artistic virtuosity simply allows the story, characters, and dialogue to heighten their comic punch. Don’t get me wrong—the drawing isn’t bad at all. But it is simple. That simplicity also allows for subtle changes in a character’s expression or demeanor to be that much more effective and, ultimately, funny.

I really appreciate The Great Outdoor Fight as an artifact unto itself. I know that the characters continue to have regular adventures in the online world of webcomics, and it’s probable that I could find more enjoyment of the world of the story if I immersed myself in previously published storylines. But that kind of homework is totally unnecessary and, to my mind, may even take away from what is a very, very funny book. Find a copy and laugh yourself silly.

Reviewed by Brian P. Rubin on July 2, 2012

Achewood: The Great Outdoor Fight
by Chris Onstad

  • Publication Date: August 27, 2008
  • Genres: Graphic Novel
  • Hardcover: 104 pages
  • Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
  • ISBN-10: 1593079974
  • ISBN-13: 9781593079970