This is one of Doug TenNapel’s several graphic novels aimed at younger audiences.  This one was published by GRAPHIX in 2011, one year after Ghostopolis, which I also reviewed.  I’m happy to say that this one is a more complete story than Ghostopolis felt like, as it’s world is fully explored and the underlying mythology is covered enough to be satisfying.


Our protagonists are Lyle, Karen, Reese and Janie, the members of your standard white, heterosexual 2.4 kids type family.  Lyle is the put-upon father, Karen is the mother who has a background in botany, Reese is their son who has an interest in football and Janie is the kid sister who has a soft spot for animals.  This family goes on a boating trip and gets stranded on an island with an ecosystem that features flora and fauna that aren’t quite the same as our own, as Karen is quick to point out. The family grows closer and builds teamwork as they protect themselves from an unwanted visitor on the island and the animals.  From time to time there are flashbacks for the audience featuring living mecha suits getting into fights with lithe aliens and their gigantic insectoid steeds.  It makes sense eventually.


The illustration style isn’t remarkably different from Ghostopolis, but the design of the non-human creatures and characters is more interesting in this book.  We start off with one of those flashbacks to the warring non-terrestrial races and I was sincerely hoping that the story would just stay there, but then I remembered that I was reading a book about an island that was bad and I came back down to earth.  I found myself enjoying creature designs such as a spine shooting mammal and pink birds of prey and the design of the bug riding aliens, especially in the right lighting.  The humans have certain visual motifs that make them recognizable immediately, but nothing about them reveals parts of their character or a memorable silhouette.


Familial bonds are the center of this story, and they are reflected in both the flashbacks and the main story.  This is all the story has going for it, however.  There isn’t much original going on with this theme either.  Coming of age for the children is the major focus, and its one that has been done to death a million times already.  Count me as a fan of family stories where the parents are more dynamic, such as The Secret of NIMH or Ponyo.


I appreciated this story from Doug TenNapel more than his last, but right now I’ve decided that I’m going to go on a search for the one graphic novel penned and drawn by the creator of Earthworm Jim that isn’t a rehash of tired family entertainment tropes and themes. Call it the Can Doug TenNapel Even Make A Stellar Book? Campaign. Maybe I’ll find it, maybe I wont, or maybe it’s still being written.  But considering that my local library has a big stack of them and I don’t want to give TenNapel money based on his bigoted leanings, I’ll continue to dig through that collection.

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