Dusharbi: Do Not Feed the Bear, by Caroline Parkinson

This review was originally written for REDEYE magazine.

‘Dusharbi: Do Not Feed the Bear’ by Caroline Parkinson, 12 pages, A5 black and white stapled single issue, £3.

Before I start on the review I was just visiting Caroline’s website to check if she had prices listed for her comics and wow this comic is an oldie!  It was drawn in 2005!  By the looks of her sketchblog (linked from her website) she’s still drawing, but I can’t help feeling I’ve somewhat missed the boat on this one, even if I did get a copy provided for review.

In another interesting internet-based development – I’ve just found that the comic is free to read on Willie Hewes’ old short-webcomic-hosting site, aptly named ‘Webcomic Shorts’.  So if you’re curious about it but see no way of getting your hands on this hard-to-find issue, you can still read it! (the wonders of modern technology)

And so before I stumble upon any other stupendous finds, to the review!

In ‘Dusharbi: Do Not Feed the Bear’ a young girl called Li gets sent out shopping in the market, but when the greengrocer’s is shut and she is pointed in the direction of some likely-looking trees on the East side of town, she finds more than she bargained for…

This issue is a standalone side story to the author’s main ‘Dusharbi’ comic project, which revolves around a mobile library that serves villages in an Eastern desert.  ‘Do Not Feed the Bear’ is a neat little one-shot that wraps itself up tidily within the page count.  This comic could therefore be enjoyed on its own without needing to buy any of the rest of the main series.

The best thing about this issue is the way it is presented.  The peephole in the front cover gives a handmade feel, the library stamps on the inside front cover and the advertisement for the travelling library on the back cover point to this being a series with a lot of personality.

However, having seen these elements before reading the one-shot story inside, I was a little disappointed that this issue wasn’t about the library itself.  I think, in the end, picking up issue one of the main Dusharbi comic might be more satisfying than a short side-story – however, this did succeed in getting me interested in the series in general.

The artwork has no glaring problems and I could understand everything that was going on.  Some of the smaller panels may have benefited from having less detail though, in order to help the pace of reading.

It looks like the grey tones that the comic is shaded with were originally laid down with marker pens, which was then converted into screentone-style dots before printing.  This results in some areas of muddy mid-grey tones.  The detailed linework here would probably benefit more from some simple, flat areas of screentone that provide some contrast but allow the linework to speak for itself.

The comic consists of black and white printed pages with a black and white lightweight card cover.  The pages are stapled together.  Printing is clear and easy to read, with no smudging.

‘Dusharbi: Do Not Feed the Bear’ is a neat one-shot side story to an intriguing main saga about a travelling caravan in the desert. The presentation of this comic is quirky and fun, although hearing about the caravan that is only hinted at here might have made for a more satisfying read.

More of Caroline’s work can be found on her website.  This comic is free to read online at Webcomic Shorts.

A review copy of this comic was provided.

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