Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Jonah's Whale Tweren't Nothing Like This:
A Review of EARTHBOY JACOBUS


Hooboy. Hang on: HOO BOY! Yeah, that's more like it.

Just got done reading Doug TenNapel's EARTHBOY JACOBUS, the graphic novel that was part of a mini-TenNapel buying spree at amazon after my delight at his CREATURE TECH. The mini-spree also included IRON WEST. (On that one, later.)

Doug's site has this blurb for EJ:
" Chief Edwards retires from the Modesto Police Department a lonely man. On his way home, he hits a flying whale with his car, opening the beast's mouth to find a boy from a parallel universe named Jacobus. Chief discovers that a society of insect monsters want to kill this boy due to a mysterious virus that grows on his hand. He becomes a father figure to the boy and trains him how to survive insect monsters by becoming a great American ass-kicker."


That's the bare bones of a genuinely page-turning story,although you may not turn them as fast as you normally would because the artwork's of such good quality. I got hooked pretty fask. The wide-eyed, displaced Jacobus (a misfit/outcast type of character, my favorite) and the aloof, wounded old Marine ex-cop (who grows on you with each panel and who never loses his gumption, thank God, even when the nightmare swallows him up)--these two form a rivetting double-forced bit of characterization. You care what happens to them.

As he did in CREATURE TECH, TenNapel mixes old-fashioned ideals and a spiritual component with vulnerable characters who need relationships and find them. He has in EJ, as in CREATURE TECH, panels that make your heart clench with the recognition of human need (familial and romantic) and really cool action.

How would I describe the story to you? Take a man running from God (like Jonah) and take the Jonah's whale, and add a misfit from a parallel Earth taken over by insectoid superbeings...shake, don't stir. Now brainstorm the weirdest scenario into which you can morph and place these elements, add a dash of romance and some redemption of the spiritual sort. Don't forget a pinch of patriotism. Tiny stars-n-stripes parasol, and voila!

Whatever you come up with won't be as odd as EARTHBOY JACOBUS...and probably not as delightful, either.

You can expect the good guys to win, yes. And you can expect much laughter and some throat-clogging apprehension and just a rowdy good time.

The TenNapel guy can tell a fantastical, whacked tale that makes me care about the strange folks in it.

A review by a liberal (TenNapel is a conservative Christian) is up at Graphic Novels Info blog, which states:

Although it was the early scenes that sold me on the book, the late scenes definitely closed the deal. By that time (they've had over 250 pages, you know) the characters have grown considerably, and I don't just mean in terms of Jacobus being taller. And TenNapel gives us a series of flashbacks that give them even more depth, simultaneously adding depth to what seemed fairly two-dimensional scenes early in the book. Suddenly the Chief, who seemed like a pretty coherent and understandable character all along, turns out to have additional facets. Brilliant.


I have to agree. Brilliant.

If you haven't picked up CREATURE TECH or EARTHBOY JACOBUS, I recommend you get both. And might as well add IRON WEST to the shopping cart. It's not, I think, as terrific as the former two, but it's still a rollicking good time out West with weird evil robot cowboys and good robot Indians, a hilarious ancient shaman, and a helpful if humorless Sasquatch, a gold-hearted saloon gal, and a slippery, clever hero who is a scoundrel ready to be reformed.

TenNapel offers Christian speculative fiction in a graphic novel format with top-notch action, nifty characters, and good messages throughout. I can't wait to get more of the guy's stuff. Amazon...here I come!

4 comments:

Mike Duran said...

This sounds like good stuff, Mir. I've just started building a graphic novel library. Any suggestions you'd call "must haves"? Thanks!

Mirtika said...

Well, what do you have?

I happen to like bound editions. I'm too careless for regular comics (though I buy some impulsively). Right now, I'd say get the complete bound SANDMAN (if you don't have 'em) and WATCHMEN. And if you like the X-Men, I've enjoyed the ASTONISHING X-MEN penned by Whedon and art by Cassaday. I also like Straczynski's SUPREME POWERS (bound volumes). Interesting parallel heroes to Superman, Batman, Flash, etc...in a very political comic. I just finished up to Volume 4 of the Walking Dead. It's a zombie thing (nothing new in the actual set-up, been done before by Romero and the 28 Days film). What is interesting is the characterization. What people must do and why and the psychic costs of it. The artwork was okay, but it didnt' blow me away. I've preordered the FELL (Warren Ellis) bound volume due out early next year. I have the comics on that one. I love the artwork and I liked the grittiness of the story lines. I also want to see where it goes...

However, the go-to guy for comics recommendations is Chris Well. I'm no fount of suggestions. I just enjoy what I happen upon. :)

BTW, did you read the graphic novel re-interpretation of the Gospel of Mark (MARKED)?

Mir

Elliot said...

A liberuhl!! Gasp! :-)

Well, anyways, it sounds like an AWESOME book. I think I have it on hold at the liberry. I mean library.

Oooh, ooh, Doom Patrol graphic novels! I'd recommend those!

Chris Well said...

You've made many fine recommendations, Mir. I guess the only additional "must-have" that comes right to mind would be Alan Moore's run on SWAMP THING (collected in several tradepaper volumes). My wife, Erica, would also be a good person to ask.

For classic traditional comices fare, Marvel's ESSENTIAL series and DC Comics SHOWCASE series are both phonebook-size black-and-white collections of great hard-to-find comics from the 60s and 70s. Marvel has released volumes of Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, Avengers, and more, and DC's series ranges from Superman and Batman to Jonah Hex (westerns) and House of Mystery.

:)