Author: Tim Rodriguez
Genre: Furry, Slice of Life, Drama, Humor
I wouldn't consider myself a furry, but I got to say that there are some advantages to anthropomorphic art that appeal to me. Animals provide more expressive body language, more diverse designs, more avenues for symbolism, and overall stand out more (e.g. Djandora). In the worst case example, you see authors who squander the medium or pander to the fetishists. In this case, I'd say that Forest Hill is somewhere in between. There is a great writing sensibility and a hint of a wider backstory to the universe, but the art drags it down.
Forest Hill is about the Lockets, a fox family, moving to a suburban neighborhood after the father Colin gets a district management job. They move to Forest Hill, where his daughter Tanya tries to make friends in her new school. She tries to make friends by kissing all the boys. It doesn't gowell. Kaleb goes into a coma, but luckily recovers. The arc also shows Kaleb's friend Marcio and Tanya coping with the event, Kaleb's mother Flora trying to keep her job, and Flora and Colin sharing a connection as single parents.
The major strength of the comic is the writing. You can see the author attempts to build a world, both in the wider sense with religion and currency but also by showing both the lives of the parents and the children and how the actions of one group affect the other. If the story focused exclusively on one or the other, it would feel like the other was an accessory to show that the main character just happens to have children or parents. And in the case of the children, not anchoring their actions to any sort of effects outside of school would turn this into a complete melodrama.
My only complaints would be in the pacing. The comic follows a similar storytelling method to newspaper comics. In a newspaper comic, Monday through Saturday is usually short black and white strips devoted to any stories or arcs the author wants to tell. Sunday is a full color longer comic that has little to nothing to do with the arc, and exists to tell jokes. The problem here is that in the midst of serious stories like Kaleb's concussion, the drastic shift between the two becomes jarring. For example, right after Kaleb gets his skull cracked, we get this Easter strip. After Flora gets the news about Kaleb's condition, we get a Veteran's Day strip about Kaleb's dead father. In the second example, it also creates some unintentional parallels and false foreshadowing, almost like it's implying Kaleb is going to end up like his father, dying while trying to do something he thought was right.
The comic is a digital anthropomorphic comic in a black and white strip format with occasional double length full color strips. Because they are animals, there is more variety in the character designs, and further, most of them look like the animal they're trying to portray. That sounds like faint praise, but really, you'd be surprised at how some people both professional and amateur artists alike just draw a circle, slap a generic muzzle on it, give it some different coloration, and call it a day. Some of his characters are hard to distinguish, though. This is supposed to be a sea otter, though it looks like some sort of lizard. Flora's boss is supposed to be a weasel, and the only way I knew was because I read the author comments. I applaud him for trying to draw animals outside his comfort zone, but he really should get more practice on animals that aren't foxes and rabbits.
One opportunity the author missed out on was using the specific animal traits to further exaggerate emotions. In the case of the foxes, the mouths do slight variation in emotion and don't go the full way up the muzzle and the ears always stay up. In real life, foxes have large mouths and their ears and tails, like most mammals, move to communicate to other animals. For example, in cases where Tanya gets scared or sad, the ears can be slung back to denote vulnerability or submissiveness. Same goes for the rabbits. In this comic, Flora's ears could be shoot straight up to show a sudden increase in attention after hearing a shocking ultimatum. Or they could be laid close to the body in fear and submissiveness to show just how reliant she is on this job to provide for her son.
There are also some issues with anatomy. In general, the character's arms are too short and tend to go down to their waist when they could go down to their midthigh. Early in the comic, the eyes tend to retain the same sized almond shape regardless of the angle of the head like a Picasso painting, though recent comics seem to have gotten better about this. Characters also seem to change size between comics. For example, Tanya's father appears to have lost weight between strips. Hunter, Tanya's three-year old sibling, drastically changes height depending on appearance. Keep in mind that all the events in the story take place over the course of a few weeks, so it's not like he could have grown that much. In the case of one girl rabbit, based on the angle she's leaning at in panel 3, if she was straightened out, she'd be taller than the other panels show her.
Finally, some minor technical issues. The comic seems to use uniformly fine lines for both lineart and hatching, reducing the visual appeal and illusion of depth in pages that don't have any perspective in the background. The hatching looks somewhat sloppy and haphazard, which detracts from the actual images. Also, I saw at least one case of copy/pasting panels.
The comic has a well written story that shows how character's actions affect each other and other details that aren't given boatloads of exposition to frame them, something that authors that try to do world building have a bad habit of doing. However, the art is lacking, containing anatomical inconsistencies, messy lineart and shading, and other technical problems, which are likely the consequence of putting quantity over quality. If a better balance was struck, this comic could draw a lot more people into the universe he's crafted.