|Before I start the review, I must comment that I live in Greenfield, Massachusetts, the town in which Bruno (and the author of this comic) were born. Being about a generation older than I am, Bruno's Greenfield is a little different from my Greenfield. Still, I think both of us can agree that it's a cultural black hole that would prefer to stagnate in nonexistent tradition rather than move forward and become a town that people would want to visit. The youth (of which I belong) have become punkish and disaffected, as there is very little fun in this town, so they've turned to smoking pot. There is some progress being made to change all this, such as the recent opening of our Home Depot, but it's still not a place I'd brag about living in. Living in this town will make anyone jaded, and I think that's where Bruno gets a good chunk of her personality.
I figure I'm not going to finish reading the entire archives this week, and Bruno's move to Portland is a good place to stop and look back, so keep in mind that this review is of the comics up until the middle of 2000.
The art is quite good. Backgrounds are very detailed, while you can easily tell each character apart from each other. Some of the characters such as Lenny have weird facial shapes, though, which makes it a little hard to take them seriously. On the other hand, sometimes I want to take the comic less seriously anyway.
"Bruno" is the story of a girl named Bruno (after some old poet, no given surname) who was born in the town of Greenfield, Massachusetts. She later moved to Northampton. When the story starts she is visiting her parents' house in Greenfield and just goes on from there.
The story revolves around Bruno. Nearly everything in the comic is shown from her point of view. This can be a good and bad thing. On the one hand, I've gained a lot of insight on Bruno, as she is one of the most fleshed-out characters in webcomics. On the other hand, it's very easy to get tired of Bruno's elitist and self-defeating attitude. Sometimes I wish I could just give her a good slap to the head.
There is no particular drive to this story. This is very much like a soap opera in that once one problem is solved, another usually crops up in its place, so there usually is no sense of closure. Bruno falls in and out of relationships, friendships and arguments. She also travels a lot. The lack of drive in the comic is due to the fact that Bruno lacks drive in her life. She's in her mid-20's but she still doesn't have any idea where she's going, and the comic reflects that.
Bruno is what it's all about. She is a bisexual liberal girl who lives in Northampton. She feels the need to constantly analyze things, often resulting in a lowered opinion of who or whatever she's analyzing, including herself. This leads to the strange conundrum of her having a superiority complex but she still kicks herself over everything. She simply doesn't know how to enjoy life, as she's always looking for meaning in it. I'll tell you right now that those who search for meaning in life will never find it, so they'd be better off enjoying what they have.
Other characters pop in and out of her life, some more likeable than others. She falls in love with a bunch of men and women (which are easy to find in Northampton), has lots of sex, then breaks up due to her usually sabotaging her own relationship. Bruno also has friends that are more easygoing than she is. Of all the recurring characters in the comic, I think I most identify with Lenny. He's very easygoing, very realistic, has low standards but enjoys what he has and has bad luck with women.
One thing that irks me, though, is that anyone who has different views from Bruno (ie a conservative) is presented as a jerk or clueless. This may be due to Bruno's (or the author's) perception of those kinds of people, but I feel like if he wants to be realistic then he should try to present all people with equal fairness.
Another thing that I didn't realize until Benor mentioned it was that each comic does have a punchline. I never laughed at any of them, as they were too normal and pedestrian to be hilarious. They just seemed like natural conversation. Excessive sarcasm does grate on me, though, and Bruno is a very sarcastic person, so I can only take the strip in small doses, or maybe a large dose spread out over a few hours.
Bruno is a very well-done comic, but it's definitely not for everyone. People who disagree with Bruno or are annoyed with her will probably not want to stick with her for the long haul. She's not going to find true happiness anytime soon, so prepare for a bumpy ride.
I'd recommend this comic to any moderately liberal person, anyone who is going through angst or depression (so they could possibly relate or even see how silly they're being) and anyone who lives in Greenfield, as I've already done.