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'Uncanny Valley' #3 is like a fun-loving cartoon wizard with life lessons galore
BOOM! Studios

Comic Books

‘Uncanny Valley’ #3 is like a fun-loving cartoon wizard with life lessons galore

Do you believe in true magic?

I get it: the whole shtick of Uncanny Valley is that it’s about cartoons exploding into the real world. But as the creative team — writer Tony Fleecs, artist Dave Wachter, and letterer Pat Brosseau — dole out more and more issues, I can no longer associate it with films a la Who Framed Roger Rabbit or (ugh) Space Jam. No, because as of issue #3, this book has reached the lofty heights of a proper kids classics like The NeverEnding Story.

And by that, I just mean that things are just so dang magical and powerful, as the story heightens its message about Oliver being unique/special and that much larger theme of how there’s power and magic in all of us. Uncanny Valley, then, is no longer just this powerfully interesting gimmick, but something with the joy, humor, and emotionality to capture our hearts and potentially stand the test of time for anyone seeking to understand why cartoons remain this essential thing for those brave souls who never want to to grow up.

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It starts, perhaps obviously enough, with the art, which was somehow even more cartoony than ever. I dare not spoil too much of what happens in issue #3, but you can expect something of a showdown between Oliver and Pecos Peet and some of the nasty cartoon baddies. It’s an especially vivid, joyous, and wonderfully bizarre depiction of the way this book regards its use of cartoons — it’s not just properly silly fun, but the more apparent and involved it becomes, the more those aforementioned themes and ideas really solidify.

At the same time as there was a clear uptick in sheer cartoon imagery, we also got a sense that the two “worlds” were blending and coming together in new ways; it feels like as the story builds, our understandings and perceptions blur, and that is how we begin to see what this book is saying about the power of childlike wonder and hope and true heart of life. (There’s a bit early on this issue with Oliver’s mom and one of those cartoony tunnels that nails this whole dynamic — oh, and it’ll totally break your heart.)

Uncanny Valley #3

BOOM! Studios

The more silly things get — two words: Kung-Fu Buggy! — the more we are both entertained and delighted as much as we’re fully reminded of just what these silly things present to us, and why we cling to them as the world grows ever bigger and scarier. The art here presents cartoons not as the bastion of Peter Pan-ian losers, but of people who know that a little wonder can make all the difference. It’s a lesson about how to truly live, and the art guides us into remembering that deeply essential thing with an increasingly charming barrage of wacky and wild imagery that sings with stupid joy and nostalgia galore.

From there, the narrative uses that resulting surge of feel-good energy to get us thinking further about the bigger ideas at the heart of this book. Yes, Uncanny Valley is all about holding onto that early-life spark to battle the fecklessness of life. But there’s some decisions made in this issue that deeply complicate its core messages without ever hampering one iota of the aforementioned cartoon wizardry that makes this book such a powerful pleasure to delve into each month.

Uncanny Valley

BOOM! Studios

Oliver’s mom, who I’d mentioned already as having a standout moment, is a really interesting player across issue #3. She knows some (but maybe not all) of the rules and tendencies of the cartoon world, and so she’s a great reminder of what happens when you let some of that go from your life. Clearly she had her reasons, but maybe things aren’t so wonderful after all. Or, there’s something about the “real” world, no matter how ugly and hard it may be, that’s just as valuable, and we have to keep that in mind as we’re balancing the good and the bad, the things we want from life and that which we’re duty-bound to instead.

She is the adult in the room, yeah, but in a way that she’s never a wet blanket — rather, a reminder that life is more wonderfully complicated than we’d want. As an extension of that, this issue ends with a slight twist/reveal that’s also quite interesting. Again, no spoilers, but it does speak to these interconnected ideas that things aren’t always what they seem, things can be complicated even if they seem easy enough, and the right and obvious choice is often the hard/lame one.

Uncanny Valley

BOOM! Studios

As much as the sweet cartoon-ness felt like a sugar rush for the brain, this third issue clearly confronted our ideas and expectations in some really important ways. It got us to grapple with our inner child in the name of seeing what it’s really like to grow up and what we must hold on to and what we must relinquish in order to thrive. It’s not an easy path, but we can connect in a deep way with Oliver as this young man faces an exaggerated version of some journey we’ll all inevitably face when we see the true nature of the world and our desire to make all the bad stuff go away. The story here makes this harrowing process an actual joy to reconcile with across the entire issue.

When I was a kid, I made up my own town called El Dorado — I assembled it out of cardboard boxes situated in a vacant lot near my house. What’s that have to do with Uncanny Valley, you ask? Just the idea that maturity and innocence, reality and fantasy are a spectrum, and we can choose how to engage with these ideas as it best suits our needs. Uncanny Valley demonstrated that with this rather robust issue, and it’s a massive accomplishment for any story that seeks to explore nostalgia, personal responsibility, and the magic of life with depth and unwavering sincerity. Also, seriously, Kung-Fu Buggy.

'Uncanny Valley' #3 is like a fun-loving cartoon wizard with life lessons galore
‘Uncanny Valley’ #3 is like a fun-loving cartoon wizard with life lessons galore
Uncanny Valley #3
It's this issue that cements 'Uncanny Valley' as this joyous but potent exploration of nostalgia, responsibility, family, self-love, and holding onto magic throughout your life.
Reader Rating0 Votes
With love and passion, the art gives us a visual feast to happily explore and dissect.
There's big ideas here that never pander but rather encourage honest self-evaluation.
The book manages to create an identity and tone that could be appealing for years to come.
If you can't fully commit to the gimmick here, you're better off watching actual cartoons.
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