Receiving two new graphic novels from Scholastic is usually a good day at the X-house. (Yes, DISCLAIMER!!! Scholastic provided review copies of both THE SILVER SIX and TOMMYSAURUS REX to me.) More and more I rely on the X-girls’ opinion of such books as a baseline for whether or not they work. Still can’t get them to actually write the reviews for me, but I haven’t given up hope on that completely.
I haven’t written many reviews myself this year — I glanced over at the ComixTALK homepage today and realized that the last update there was end of last year. And that was on top of a year or so of sporadic posts. Still I LIKE writing about comics and with the pressure of daily production gone, there are times when I WANT to sit down and add some thoughts to the INTERNET.
The Silver Six by AJ Lieberman and Darren Rawlings
X-girls liked it. I can see why — it is the equivalent of a popcorn movie; plucky orphaned girl protagonist (and later, five more orphans added to the mix) fights evil exploitive businessman who is ruining the earth to mine Hydro-2; a fuel source that’s 87% more effective than oil. The evil businessman killed the six orphans parents (not really much of a spoiler) too. So he’s a very bad dude. There’s action and lots of plucky inventive escapes by the orphans.
But despite the more than effective artwork; the story to me felt largely forced. Probably because at the heart of it is a confused premise that posits solving an environmental crisis brought on by mining and refining Hydro-2 with a newer energy source. It raises some possibly interesting questions about the environment and energy and how society makes a lot of those choices but then it basically uses all of that as a macguffin for a bunch of chases and fight scenes.
Outside of the main character Phoebe and her robot Max, I didn’t feel like the other orphans got enough development to be real people. Odd too because there really was no reason at all to need six characters. There’s very little in the story that requires a team of six heroes or even a team at all (I know the plot as it is makes use of the six but there are countless other ways that could have been handled).
Neat trailer for the book though:
Tommysaurus Rex by Doug TenNapel
Scholastic has put together a story Doug TenNapel first published in 2004 with Image Comics. Tommysaurus Rex is pretty typical for TenNapel work where he combines great elements of fantasy with a pretty genuine take on family dynamics and kids growing up. I like how TenNapel almost always tells a good fantasy yarn but then also anchors that to the emotional journey of the protagonist.
In this one, Ely is a young boy who gets bullied and then finds a dinosaur. Yes — a dinosaur. You just have to go with it. Really, the characters in the story mostly do just kind of adapt to the fact that there’s a dinosaur hanging around. That is in fact some of the best parts of the book — watching the family interact with the dinosaur. TenNapel is good at pacing and mostly does a great job of moving things along but also giving enough space in the book to enjoy the moments of wonder and humor possible because there is a DINOSAUR in the backyard.
The plot with the bully works well enough even if not terribly original. TenNapel does a lot to try and give the characters more than one dimension and in contrast to The Silver Six, the action sequences feel more integral to the story. Certainly if you liked other recent TenNapel graphic novels you will like this one too.