Parsley Girl: Carrots
by Matthew Swan
Avery Hill Publishing [available online]
Colour / £6
Review by Tom Mortimer
Matthew Swan’s Parsley Girl: Carrots is a recent addition to the Avery Hill Publishing lineup. Of their recent publications, it’s definitely the most dramatically flamboyant, with a cartoon playfulness and dash of fantasy.
To summarise: When Parsley Girl witnesses a goblin steal a bag from an old woman, she naturally jumps in to help. Although the bag is returned, she takes a heavy wallop to the face and a trip to the dentist sees her prescribed with tablets that cause drowsiness and strange visions. Naturally, a portal opens in her kitchen and, along with her friends Margiotta Moonshine and Robot Thomas, she has to save the town from an army of malicious vegetable monsters.
The consequences of the tablet mean that Parsley Girl can at any moment fall into a dazed slumber or have a strange psychedelic episode, which is a great way to balance out a powerful character while furthering a story without relying solely on the stacked odds. It’s also just one of many details planted to not only add comical peculiarities, but construct an elaborate web of plot threads.
That extensive investment in the story components doesn’t read as laboured, but as a smooth coming together, and demonstrates more than someone ‘just being random’.
That said, there’s also a nice absence of information too; such as no origins stories or explanations for the world that these characters inhabit. It’s refreshing to be dropped in like this, and Swan handles his fantasy world with confidence and strength.
At times I did feel as though I might have missed some earlier episode before all this. Indeed, one look at Swan’s website suggests that Parsley Girl has appeared in other work before, so perhaps there are some setup elements in those that would benefit with context.
The elaborate fantasy world created by Swan is underpinned by an archetypal everyday town. His is not the first comic to do this, but I appreciated it nonetheless. Especially with the odd nod to mundane relatable observations with a surreal twist – such as when a tired Margiotta goes to buy milk, or even just in a panel dedicated to the team’s bloatedness after gorging on pizza.
Structurally, Swan also moves slickly from tight panelling to more manic, free-flowing arrangements. This approach allows for curated storytelling but also great explosions of pace, action and movement. These can, in their more intense moments, create a confusion that takes a little more investment from the reader, but they ultimately give a better sense of the moment, and we retain a fair sense of who is doing what.
Similarly to when I wrote about Donya Todd’s Buttertubs, or Isaac Lenkiewicz’s Look Out Bawang, these kinds of surreal worlds are so full of character that they cry out to be revisited. I can easily see a series here, as well as the formation of a devoted fan base.
Although I don’t think adults solely seek out publications that reflect a life of eternal misery – and they may well enjoy this fun adventure romp – I see this publication being particularly popular with teenage readers. If you’re seeking to entertain/distract even younger offspring, then Parsley Girl: Carrots would provide a fairly safe and fun read. At 36 pages, it should keep their attention for a while and if you have some spare plain paper and pencils on hand, it’s visually inspiring enough that you could probably encourage them into doing some fan art too…
They may, however, never look at carrots in quite the same way.