Title: A&H Club Volume 1
Author / Artist: Rick Griffin
Publisher: Rick Griffin Studios
Genre: Lesbian / Furry / Drama / Graphic Novel
Released: April 20th 2018
Length: 84 pages
Adrian has had a hard time since the birth of her son and is at her wits end, until a long-time acquaintance of hers, Hildegard, offers her a place to stay at her apartment. But that doesn’t mean things are easy now, only that they get easier, one day at a time.
Q: Why do none of the characters wear any pants? A: Because I am the author and want to make it fun for me. This book contains the first three issues of A&H Club!
Rick Griffin is quite a prominent artist within the furry fandom. His popular webcomic Housepets! has not only provided a consistently strong output since its debut in 2008, but it has also won an Ursa Major Award for ‘Best Anthropomorphic Comic Strip’ every year from 2009 to 2017. Whereas Housepets! treats readers to a healthy mix of fantasy and good natured humour though, A&H Club is a little different.
In many ways, this is more of an adult story, especially in terms of the themes on display. First and foremost, this is Adrian’s story, and boy has she had a rough time of it; She had a difficult childhood, suffered through an abusive relationship, and is now struggling to make ends meet as a single mother. Even with the characters being anthropomorphic animals, in Adrian’s case a Kangaroo, this is dealt with in a very real way. Adrian is struggling on many levels, and the scars that her previous partner left her with come into play with how she interacts with Hildegard and others. She’s used to being judged, and as a result, fears disappointing others. Honestly, it’s absolutely heartbreaking to read at times, especially if you’ve known anyone who suffered through similar things.
Hildegard is not one dimensional either though. She’s had her own issues in life, and certainly has a lot more going on than her sometimes brash demeanour would have you believe. In some ways, she’s Adrian’s opposite: confident, cheery, and happy to be herself. By the same token, she’s also Adrian’s ideal for much the same qualities. That’s not to say that Adrian is expected to morph into a carbon copy of her wolf companion, more that the longer she spends with Hildegard, the more you want to see the person she’d become if she were to adapt some of her confidence and self-assuredness.
As a love story, it’s all really quite sweet too. While cohabiting, the pair are not officially a couple by the end of the book, though it’s clear that things are heading that way. Seeing them move from friendship to a growing attraction is an absolute delight, and the mutual embarrassment that they have when things start to move towards being more than just friends is really adorable. You really want the two ladies to get together, and that is a marvelous thing to bring out of a reader.
The successfulness of the tale really comes down to the overall quality of Rick’s work though. His writing is on point here, and I would argue the departure from the more light hearted nature of Housepets! is an excellent tool to show how good he is. That it makes an effective use of humour to split up the harsher moments is also a real bonus, and goes a long way to making the characters feel relatable. From an art standpoint, he is also working at his best, with the cartoony style of the designs being balanced out by the thoroughly human nature of the facial expressions and body poses. This is a fantastic piece of work on a technical level, and well worth checking out on that basis.
Now, the front cover and the insert pages do make it look like the book may feature some more adult situations. Outside the themes already mentioned though, this isn’t the case for this volume. There’s nothing explicit on show in the story itself, so if that’s not your thing, don’t be put off. It’s also worth noting that the comic moves from black and white to full colour for the last chapter. The overall quality is high for both styles, with the detailing in particular being great, but I must confess, I love the way the colour makes things pop in the later part of the book.
All in all, this is an easy recommend for any furry reader looking for a sweet love story with some darker themes. If you’re not a furry, as long as you have no objection to anthropomorphic animals, then there should be plenty here for you too if it fits your normal genre preferences. The story draws you in, the art is phenomenal, and the characters are remarkably easy to get behind. 5 out of 5.