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Congress of the Animals
Readers of the “Frank” stories know that the Unifactor is in control of everything
that happens to the characters that abide there, and that however extreme
the experiences they undergo may be, in the end nothing really changes. That
goes treble for Frank himself, who is kept in a state of total ineducability by the
unseen forces of that haunted realm. And so the question arises: what would
happen if Frank were to leave the Unifactor?
That question is answered in Congress of the Animals, Jim Woodring's much-anticipated
second full-length graphic novel following 2010's universally acclaimed Weathercraft, and first starring his signature
character Frank. In this gripping saga an act of casual rudeness sets into motion
a chain of events which propels Frank into a world where he is on his own at
last; and like so many who leave home, Frank finds himself contending with
realities of which he had no previous inkling.
In Congress of the Animals we are treated to the pitiful spectacle of Frank losing his house, taking a factory job, falling
in with bad company, fleeing the results of sabotage, escaping the Unifactor in an amusement park ride, surviving
a catastrophe at sea, traveling across hostile terrain toward a massive temple seemingly built in his image, being treated
roughly by gut-faced men and intervening in an age-old battle in a meadow slathered in black and yellow blood. And
when he finally knocks on opportunity's door he finds... he finds...
Suffice to say he finds what most of us would like to find. Can he bring it back with him? Will the Unifactor accept
him as he has become? Are his sins forgiven? Is love real? Is this the end of Frank as we know him?
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For the past 20 years or so, Jim Woodrings beloved trilobular chuckbuster Frank has enjoyed one mindbending catastrophe after another in the treacherous embrace of The Unifactor, the land into which he was born and from
which escape seemed neither desirable nor likely. And then, abruptly, in 2011’s acclaimed Congress of the Animals (the second Woodring original graphic novel, following Weathercraft) Frank did leave the Unifactor for uncharted lands beyond — where, after a string of trials, he acquired a soulmate named Fran.
This development raised far more questions than it answered. Would Frank become placid and domesticated? Would he be jilted? Would he turn out to be a dreadful cad? Would he become a downtrodden and exhausted paterfamilias staring vacantly into the dimming fire of life as obnoxious grandchildren pulled his peglike ears and stole his porridge?
The answers to these fruitless speculations and many more are delivered in a devastatingly unpredictable fashion in Fran, which is in effect part two of Congress of the Animals. Fans of Frank, connoisseurs of bizarre romance, and spelunkers in the radiant depths of graphic metaphysical psychodrama will want to add this singular cartoon adventure story to their lifetime reading list.