Friday, April 3, 2009

Weekly Graphic Novel Review - The Stardust Kid by DeMatteis and Ploog

The Stardust Kid by J.M. DeMatteis and Mike Ploog. Boom! Studios, 2008.

12-year-old Cody has a good friend named Paul who is not the 13-year-old boy he appears to be. In fact, exactly what he is remains somewhat unclear, but let’s call him a “magical spirit” who has been Cody’s companion (in various forms) since Cody was born.

What was just a fabulous friendship from Cody’s point of view changes suddenly when Paul’s mirror (sort of his evil twin or his other self – it’s complicated) rises up in anger at the nastiness humans have made of the world and seeks to transform everything into her own vision of perfection.

Unfortunately this vision is fairly dreadful, with evil shrubbery and hungry hornets and other scary beasties. Cody, his long-time friend Alana, and their two younger siblings are swept into a bizarre alternate world – where Cody discovers a secret buried deep inside him that saves them all, with some timely help from Alana.

First, my quibbles. There is an awful lot of wordiness in this graphic novel. The narrator (whose identity remains hidden until the end) expounds at great length throughout the book, and in very tiny font, too. If I felt compelled to skip over all the meandering ponderings and get to the action, then kids certainly will as well, and they won’t be missing all that much.
Another huge problem - the plot is a mess. It all might make sense in the minds of its creators, but many events and turns of plot are rather inexplicable and confusing to the reader.

That said, this is a fairly imaginative and compelling book. The full-color artwork is brilliant and almost juicy with plenty of eye-appeal. The characters don’t possess a huge array of expressions but they all possess a distinct look that makes it a cinch to tell them apart (this is sometimes a problem in graphic novels, I’ve found). Cody and his sis are white and Alana and her brother are black, and the creatures are oozy, drippy, convoluted, leaf-infested, and in general quite cool to look at.

The premise – Paul’s origins, the nature of his mirror, Cody’s eventual transformation – is complicated and a tad mystical, and will perhaps go over the heads of younger readers. Those readers who stay tuned will probably just skip all the aforementioned verbiage and let the exuberant artwork and dialogue tell the story.

Grade 5 and up.

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