The inside cover to Dean Rankine‘s newest comic is a telling introduction to the warped world of the Itty Bitty Bunnies; readers of the Itty Bitty Bunnies in Rainbow Pixie Land: Tales from the Crib will have, if they have never beforehand, the pleasure of cutting out and wearing their very own Gimp mask. So, there’s that. Finally. Spider-Man masks have been done to death if you ask me.
Author and artist of several auxiliary stories for The Simpsons Comic and Futurama’s under creator of both series Matt Groening’s comic book publisher Bongo Comics, Rankine has been putting out the odd, extremely adult oriented misadventures of two buddy rabbits this time with publisher Action Lab Entertainment. This particular comic–the first issuing of their Tales from the Crib–caught my eye because the artwork reminded me of The Ren & Stimpy Show, a show infamous for targeting children as their audience, but, well, not at all being for children.
Itty Bitty Bunnies doesn’t want your children to read this, and that’s fine because not only is it grotesquely inappropriate, even causing this reviewer to pause and blurt an incredulous “Jesus,” but because Rankine’s punchlines are subtle. They’re not riotous climaxes or instant laughs thanks to slapstick; they require a moment of digestion. It’s a wonderful thing that this medium of art lets the creator do whatever they please without considerable backlash. Rankine’s perverse little creatures are subjects and spectators of divine lewdness that I’m sure would be front and center of every PTA meeting across the States if this was born on television.
Within the issue are five “stories,” essentially one-off jokes with some landing on firmer grounds than others. The first and last stories, “Liverworst” and “Acid Rain” respectively, are the weakest parts of the whole as well as being two of the longest. Each story plays out like a joke that uncle of yours would tell you when you meet, a beer or two into whatever holiday it is; the wonderfully obscene artwork provides the added punch to a joke that may have only elicited a snicker. The visualization of acid rain eating through the flesh of tripped-out bunnies carries the writing above the plains of comedic purgatory.
My favorite insert to the comic is a simple, two-page word-play where there isn’t any dialogue save the howling yelps of ice cream, fully self-aware of the torturous doom that it will face–at the hands of one of our hungry bunnies. It’s a silly “ice scream” trope you’ve likely heard before, but after it clicked with me, I couldn’t help but smile. That sort of joke, the kind that evokes a lasting involuntary reaction with such innocence (no fornication or expletives) is one of the hardest to pull off in my opinion. Yeah, it may be on some popsicle, but when the comic is filled with innuendos, cursing, alcoholism, social commentary on the state of our prison system, it’s a nice break, and I think that’s why I liked it so much.
Dean Rankine’s little gremlins are not trying to be Shakespeare or introducing hundreds of characters with over-arcing stories. They’re gross, alcoholic, sex-craving, drug users that occasionally enjoy fine deserts. The comic is fun, and yes, there are jokes that several re-reads later will turn stale, but the artwork is layered with detail and even more jabs that show Rankine enjoys the process of putting this to ink. It’s not a long read either; there are many panes with no dialogue at all and play off of the drawings. There is no reason that, if this ever fell into your lap or you found it scanning the internet or shop racks, you should not give the Itty Bitty Bunnies their due.