ďDamn you, Iím a crazy monkey...Ē So begins every episode of the adventures of ĎJenniferí who, despite being thus named and clothed in an disarming array of pretty dresses, is actually a boy-monkey. Itís all her owner, Kaitlinís, fault; Kaitlin is about eight years old and sees Jennifer as the perfect playmate for dolliesí tea parties and other such horrors.
Jennifer for his part is the most bad-tempered and black-hearted monkey (or rather, ape) Iíve ever read about. Which is what makes My Monkeyís Name Is Jennifer one of the funniest comics Iíve read for a while.
Jenniferís wrath and Kaitlinís utter obliviousness to it have the perfect backdrop in a story that could only seem coherent to an eight-year-old and her pet monkey. Letís look at the facts, shall we? Kaitlin is kidnapped by a megalomaniacal villain who has discovered that Kaitlinís sunny disposition can be used to generate power. Later, while having a bath, Jennifer and Kaitlin step out of the tub to find themselves on a pirate ship. After they get back from their adventures on the pirate ship there follows a trip to see the Pretty Rapping Alpacas, which is what the kids are into now instead of My Little Ponyís, apparently. Does that sound like a sensible plot to you?
Donít look at me like that! Honestly, Iím just telling you what happens!
Where My Monkeyís Name Is Jennifer works best is simply in the gap that lies between Jenniferís perpetual promises to inflict hideous pain and suffering upon all and sundry and his continued humiliation at the hands of an eight-year-old girl. Obviously Jennifer canít speak (donít be silly Ė heís a monkey!), but his roughly drawn expressions of hatred and angular thought balloons dripping impotent fury are plain to see Ė and itís all dressed up so prettily!
Knudtsenís artwork is all harsh, rough black and whites, mirroring Jenniferís anger; and this functions very very well indeed, Jennifer working best as a caricature of a monkey anti-hero. I think weíve all been Jennifer at some point in our lives Ė trapped, hideously embarrassed and full of bile Ė and Knudtsen has done an admirable job, treading a finely drawn line between the humiliations inflicted by the monstrous Kaitlin and the awesome bad temper of Jennifer, both of which could so easily have been simply nasty rather than funny.
When it comes to the human characters (Kaitlin, her parents, the pirates) Knudtsenís art works less well, and likewise with the action, which on more than one occasion was rather, ahem, open to interpretation. Given the ludicrous nature of the story I was more willing than normal to allow for this, but still at times it interfered with the flow of the story: always a bad thing in a comic book.
If angry monkeys in dresses saying things like, ďSay goodbye to your fleshy testicles!Ē before being rescued by Connecticutís Ululating Ninja Transvestites sounds like your cup of tea then My Monkeyís Name Is Jennifer is your cup of tea. And you should probably be ashamed of yourself.
This isnít a heartbreaking work of staggering, beauty but then so few things are. Sometimes angry monkeys have to suffice, and in this case they suffice rather well.