If you’ve read my list, you might think, “This person reads a lot of scifi and fantasy comics.” You’d be right. You might think, “Don’t they like anything serious?” Sure I do! Allow me to introduce you to Todd Allison and the Petunia Violet.
This is a historical crime drama, set in 1920s Melbourne, about a serial arsonist – the mysterious and elegant Violet – who targets government buildings, and the special parliamentary task force assigned to investigate these crimes and discover Violet’s identipffffffffftt hahaha I can’t do it. I’m sorry. I can’t. This comic isn’t serious at all.
It’s actually about a goofy, nervous young woman named Petunia, and her unusual relationship with her next-door neighbor, the dour and humorless Todd Allison, and the weird faces they constantly make at each other.
Okay, yes Todd Allison (who is always addressed by full name) is on the committee investigating Violet. And yes, the person who hires thugs to kill Todd Allison for his investigations turns out to be Petunia’s brother, parliamentary neonate Elijah. And, okay, yes, Elijah may or may not be secretly hatching plans against the very government he works for. The plot’s thick enough to stand a spoon in, but that’s not the important part!
The important part is that it’s funny. People are constantly either doing strange things or giving hilarious reaction shots to other people doing strange things. No one is polite, everyone overreacts, in every scene someone is either mortified or infuriated, and Petunia’s always falling on her face or down stairs or out windows. It’s a wild ride and I love it.
It sounds like a formula that would get old. Slapstick is kid stuff, right? People being silly when they should be serious, or yelling about something insignificant, seems like the kind of humor that belongs in a cartoon. Honestly, I keep waiting for the point where I’ll get sick of it, but it hasn’t come yet.
The secret, I think, to the humor of Todd Allison and the Petunia Violet is that it’s so utterly absurd! Its cartoonish jokes are taken way past a reasonable point, and constantly juxtaposed with the dark story of murder and intrigue being told. It alternates between serious and silly so fast that you can’t do anything but laugh.
The only thing I don’t get about this comic is why Petunia is playing second fiddle to Todd Allison in the comic’s title when she’s clearly the main character. The story follows her – her struggles, her worries, her friendships, her journey to Melbourne, disguised as a boy, to go after her prodigal brother – and that’s good, really good, because she’s a far more interesting character than Todd Allison! So don’t be fooled by the title, folks, Petunia is the real hero here.
Final verdict: If you like period pieces, you’ll like this. If you like crime dramas, you’ll like this. If you like mysteries, you’ll like this. If you’re a humorless snob, you’ll hate it.