“Bad Island” by Doug TenNapel (Graphix) – Following up his fun graphic novel “Ghostopolis,” TenNapel presents a teen take on “Lost,” with some “Swiss Family Robinson” and aliens thrown in for good measure.
It’s not as engrossing or original as “Ghostopolis,” but it’s still a good read.
Angsty teen Reese is forced to go on a boating trip with his family: Dad Lyle, Mom Karen and little sister Janie (and her pet snake, Pickles). No one but Lyle is too excited, but off they go, hitting the high seas and getting caught in an unexpected storm.
They’re shipwrecked on an uncharted desert isle, but this is no “Gilligan’s Island.” It’s full of strange plants and creatures, and the skeleton of a long-dead explorer whose satchel contains a surprising bit of technology.
Meanwhile, a parallel story is being told in flashback, about some sort of living robots that fight aliens on behalf of a defenseless, peaceful race. The rebellious teen son of the robots’ king is captured and spirited away when he doesn’t listen to his father and stay out of the fight because he’s too young.
How do these stories connect? You’ll just have to read through to the end to find out.
In the interest of getting his ambitious story told in 219 pages, TenNapel takes some narrative shortcuts that wind up hurting the story a bit.
The characters of Reese and his family suffer most, barely scratching the surface of the dynamic that led them to the island. They have a nice growth arc while there, but it seems forced without context.
Also, they seem to accept the weird things about the island way too easily and don’t take logical precautions when faced with the dangers they run into. It’s certainly out of the ordinary to them, but they adapt more quickly than feels realistic in the interest of moving the plot forward.
But the positives definitely outweigh the negatives. It’s a fun plot, to be sure. And TenNapel skillfully works in humor throughout, a lot of it revolving around Pickles. And there are some nice moments between Reese and Janie.
TenNapel is also a good artist. His faces are simple, but they have a lot of emotion, and he does some great shadow work. His coloring team does a great job enhancing his work. His critters are also pretty cool, and I love the organic and mechanical looks of the alien races.
Overall, TenNapel presents a nice bit of escapism. He’s a real talent, and I can’t wait to see what’s next. GRADE: B-