Varmint by Andy Hirsch Book Review

Varmint by Andy Hirsch
Publisher: First Second
Release Date: September 26, 2016

After Opie and Ned's mother is murdered, the two youngsters set off to look for their Pa and the man who shot her. They aren't exactly the mos dynamic duo though, with Ned being overly friendly and the two constantly bickering. Together they get themselves in a heap of trouble from horse thievery (er....borrowing) to exploding trains.

This graphic novel is a slow build chapter by chapter going from simply horse rustling to a booby trapped crime kingpin in a mountain. The pacing is even throughout, which is important since this is definitely a plot-driven story. In fact, Hirsh spent so much time creating an event plot that the characters were neglected. Opie and Ned are like funny slapstick characters, entertaining, but lack in much substance. They certainly get into a good deal of trouble, but what I wanted was more backstory and a bit more emotional depth. So that, in the end, I wasn't just happy for them, but wanted more of them. The secondary characters are even less fleshed-out and I would love for someone to explain to me the big giant bear man.

One thing that did draw me out continually were the rather adult jokes, which were completely unexpected in a graphic novel for 3-6 graders. They were mostly innuendos, but the fact that they existed was the surprising bit. To the point that when Opie meets a lady at a large hotel/saloon and the lady suggests she has a job for Opie, I seriously thought they would "go there". Finally, my biggest issue was the confusing ending. Too many people named Pa. Killers named Pa. Pa's that aren't Pa. I had to read it twice to make it make sense.

Final verdict, a rolling romp through the Old West where hijinks ensue, but you probably won't want to read another if you didn't manage to connect to one of the characters by the end.