Banana Sunday, written by Root Nibot (aka Paul Tobin) and drawn by Colleen Coover, is the kind of imaginative work that’s perfect for comics. It’s got a creative premise — a girl named Kirby starts at a new school while taking care of three apes — that would be too expensive or ludicrous to do anywhere else, yet it emphasizes internal conflict with sympathetic characters. The emotions are universal, such as young love on a first date or a reporter’s conflict between loyalty and seeking the truth or the debate over how to stand up to a bully.
The art is simply styled, easy to read, with clear layouts (which takes a lot more talent than camouflaging problems with a busier style). It’s got flair, too, whether capturing a character’s expression or the active motion of the monkeys. The panel-to-panel moments are perfectly selected to flow, making the read almost like watching a cartoon (only it’s easier to dwell on particularly good panels).
The monkeys are smarter than usual, and they can talk, so they’re going to high school to learn more about human society. Chuck, the orangutan, is a bit stuffy, and he usually has his nose in a book. He’s very proud of his advanced intelligence to the point of patronizing the teachers. Knobby is a spider monkey wearing a little suit of clothes and a bow tie, and he likes girls, wooing them with poetry.
Go-Go, the gorilla (although a tiny one), is fixated on food and naps. He’s the most animalistic of the three, operating on instinct. Although selfish when it comes to his bananas, he’s Kirby’s fierce protector, even if too much brainwork puts him to sleep. He’s the breakout character, my favorite, because he’s even cuter than the rest. The other monkeys could easily be people, but Go-Go gives off more of an animal vibe, almost like a pet or a toddler. And as a minature of the biggest type of ape, he’s adorable.
The setup is a classic fish-out-of-water scenario combined with the wacky appeal of a good sitcom. When school reporter Nickels discovers the monkeys have a secret, she’s determined to find out what it is. Kirby knows that Nickels is investigating, but the two still become friends. Meanwhile, photographer Martin is hitting on her, in a good way. The combination of monkey secrets and school intrigue only increases the sense of fun, making for all-around enjoyable entertainment. This book is the missing link between Archie comics and Blue Monday.