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Well, it didn’t take me as long as I would have thought to find one of Doug TenNapel’s numerous graphic novels that is actually unique and memorable.  Cardboard is the latest book written and illustrated by Doug TenNapel and published by GRAPHIX, as its release date was in 2012.  It was colored by Der-Shing Helmer, who is well known as a biologist and for work on the webcomic, The Meek.

Summary:

The story starts with an underemployed man named Mike failing to find a quick odd job so he can pay for a birthday present for his son, Cam.  He runs into a vendor who looks like vaguely Uncle Ruckus and purchases a cardboard box from him for 78 cents, all he could afford.  Mike and Cam use the cardboard to construct a model of a boxer, who comes to life in the morning.  Marcus, one of the neighborhood kids, aspires to have this magic cardboard for himself and steals from Cam in order to create more cardboard creatures.  The sentient pulp dolls soon overthrow Marcus. Cam, Mike and the cardboard boxer have to team up with Marcus to put an end to the rise of the cardboard cretins.

Visuals:

Doug TenNapel’s style has changed a lot since Earthworm Jim, but this is the book that most reflects his old style from that series, mainly in the eyeballs.  The book also has a lot of creatures and that’s TenNapel’s specialty, so he can show off a little in this book.  The design of a few of the adults irked me, namely how their eye frame was larger than their jaw line in many cases.  Marcus’s design is stereotypical, but stands out in contrast to the other human character’s from TenNapel’s books.

Themes:

This book digs into childish creativity rather well, and has some relatable moments on that front.  My brother and I have literally done the exact same thing that Marcus and his lackey do in one scene, namely, creating a cardboard factory where you insert drawings of what you want in order to make something.  Unfortunately we didn’t have magic on our side, or even much knowledge of structural integrity.  Since TenNapel’s books are meant for young audiences, it’s nice to see one that actually has some insight into how then act

Overall:

The thematic elements and more characteristic visual style, plus the better coloring job provided by Helmer, are improvements on TenNapel’s previous works.  The story occasionally has some undertones of criticism of stereotypical American liberal values, which was annoying for me, but it isn’t a prominent feature of the book and really just made like the Marcus character more.  Other than that, I can’t say many bad things about this book, and I’m glad this one passes the bar of mediocrity and stepped into quality storytelling for young folks.

Cardboard on Amazon: