Yehudi Mercado is an animator, and it shows. While he has called Pantalones, TX : Don’t Chicken Out, “Smokey the Bandit meets Peanuts,” his characters’ thick-bordered profiles are more reminiscent of the Hanna Barbera school of limited animation, i.e. the cartoons that begin with Huckleberry Hound, Snagglepuss, or Yogi Bear, and end with Adult Swim. The setting, Pantalones, is a pop-up book city in an over the top angular desert that recalls the backdrop of Warner’s Road Runner cartoons. And just as the characters in a seven minute reel go all out to earn your laughs, so too do the hero and the villain of the piece, Chico Bustamante and Sheriff Cornwallis, have an animated work ethic. Cornwallis, unlike Wile E Coyote, isn’t a dunce cap Da Vinci, but he’s a jack of all trades of a different stripe; he not only enforces law and order in Pantalones, but also teaches a one-room school for Chico’s class and runs a chicken stand–and still has time to read Evil Sheriff magazine. As soon as our hero Chico finishes one Rube Goldberg plan, he hatches another one, which keeps Sheriff Cornwallis busy.
Despite the grandiose nature of Chico’s stunts, the story is a simple one, more Tom Sawyer than Huckleberry Finn. Boys will be boys, whether they’re cannonballing into Pantalones River, wrestling a cloud, or riding a giant chicken. Like Peter Pan, Chico never grows up. He never comes of age or gives the reader any great wisdom, other than that it’s fun to be wrong. The story opens with Chico saying to his friend, “Bucky, my pal, the ability to pee in the outdoors is what separates us from the animals,” to which Bucky’s rejoinder is the obvious one, that it doesn’t; even when Chico rises to the occasion his prepubescent epiphanies never rise above this level. Instead, like the tall tale hero he is, he masters every challenge that he gives himself.
This is a great book for kids of all ages. It is exactly the kind of thing to give junior high students if you want them to foment rebellion against the substitute. But if you’re too mature to enjoy a hero whose crowning achievement is having a bar mitzvah and riding a giant chicken, then stay away. There’s too much fun here for you.
Pantalones, TX : Don’t Chicken Out is published by Archaia Press, which has established itself as a maker of high quality, award-winning, hardback graphic novels such as Mouse Guard, Rust, and Spera. You can ask for it at your local comic shop and quality booksellers such as Barnes and Noble, and it is available digitally on comiXology. It is also available on Amazon, and if you follow the “customers who viewed this item” links, you can get a tidy bundle of Archaia books and get free shipping. A sample is available on the Supermercado website, and a trailer for the series is on YouTube.