Unicorn Playlist | Review
Unicorn Playlist: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure
by Dana Simpson
Andrews McMeel Publishing, $11.99
Ages 10 and up
For a comic strip on its fourteenth volume (as this one is), it’s amazing to me how good it still is. Settling down with a new Phoebe and Her Unicorn book means a satisfying read. The familiar characters — unusual young woman Phoebe, her magical best friend Marigold the unicorn, her frenemy Dakota, and her goblin minions — have challenges, but they make it through with humor and good will.
This particular volume felt like a timely read, as it opens with Phoebe depressed about the state of the world. There’s no great answer, but her friend is there for her, and her parents watch out for her.
Comedy comes from the unicorn version of things such as mail service or Robin Hood. Dakota struggles with the idea of a goblin popularity contest, and Christmas comes around again with the question of what one gets a magical creature as a gift. Marigold asks her sister for information about their family and meets a non-binary cousin. Phoebe teaches Marigold how to be distracted (as she’s a master at it).
The concepts on display here are clever and imaginative and surprising. Simpson’s ideas are never predictable, and the cartooning supports them with charm and silliness. For example, I loved it when Phoebe had to give valentines to everyone. What do you give a unicorn who has to take humility lessons to avoid thinking they’re the best of everything? A square of reflective aluminum foil, of course.
There’s meaning, too, as when Phoebe tries to share her favorite song with Marigold. When the unicorn doesn’t like it as much as the girl does, she asks “If you don’t like it, how can you like ME?” (She’s reassured and eventually shakes off the mood.) These are deep questions, but they’re the kinds of things people of all ages wonder about. Learning that you can be friends with someone without sharing everything they like is a significant lesson. Plus, we get to see the unicorn playing a Beatles record by spinning it on her horn.
It’s a better world these two live in, just because they have each other. I’m grateful for the wonder that such an entertaining comic strip also has such heart and meaning.
Johanna Draper Carlson has been reviewing comics for over 20 years. She manages ComicsWorthReading.com, the longest-running independent review site online that covers all genres of comic books, graphic novels, and manga. She has an MA in popular culture, studying online fandom, and was previously, among many other things, webmaster for DC Comics. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin.
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