Thursday, December 15, 2011

GN Review -- Bad Island / Doug TenNapel

Family vacations are often difficult for all involved: teens who don't want to spend time with their family and feel forced into the whole thing, the kids who are marginalized and looking for attention, and the parents who plan and manage the whole thing and feel harried and unappreciated for their efforts. All these characters are present when teenage Reese's family goes on a boating trip for some quality time with one another. When a freak lightning storm during their excursion washes them on a deserted island, it's safe to say that things can't possibly get any worse, right?


First they discover boulders with strange symbols on them. Then one of the rock formations tries to eat them! Soon they discover all kinds of strange, alien things about the island: the flora, the fauna, and mysterious "natives" hunting them. What starts out as a family survival tale quickly becomes a sci-fi adventure, as the family discovers that there is much more to this island--in several ways--than they could possibly imagine.

Doug TenNapel is another graphic novelist I've had the pleasure of meeting, and his personality very much comes out in his writing. He packs the father, Lyle's, love of his family into the narrative very nicely, as well as plenty of his flaws, along with the rest of the family. Reese, who had considered running away from home before the trip, realizes that his father knew this, and had planned the trip as a result of this knowledge. The rest of the story, spiritually, becomes a journey to help Reese rediscover his love for his family and the life he has with them.

The adventure involving the aliens and the island is action-packed, with plenty of opportunities for growth that the characters take advantage of. TenNapel seems to delight in these kinds of narratives, and he handles them with aplomb, keeping things moving and developing while still allowing his characters to breathe (at least figuratively). When all is said and done, the reader may be surprised at just how much depth there is to what appears on its surface to be a mere action-adventure.

The artwork is also fun to look at. TenNapel's cartoony style is punctuated with large, stark features for his characters, such as over-large eyes, that allow for lots of expression. He clearly enjoys drawing aliens and monstrous characters--this is the man who created Earthworm Jim, after all--and he finds plenty of space for them in this adventure. The result is a visual narrative that captivates the reader's interest and works well with the story.

Overall, it's a fun, enjoyable read that keeps itself grounded even as the plot twists and turns at varying speeds. In the end, the moral of the story is that your family will always be there for you, and although it may not always be easy or fun, being there for them in turn is a worthwhile pursuit all its own. Teens and kids of all ages would be pleased with this story, as well as anyone who likes action-adventures and family stories. Highly recommended.

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