J.G. Keely's Reviews > Creature Tech

Creature Tech by Doug TenNapel
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Apr 20, 2009

it was ok
bookshelves: comics, science-fiction, reviewed
Read in April, 2009

While quirky and original, this book was also inelegant and unpolished. The storytelling was often awkward, with sudden breaks of exposition. The story didn't as much develop as it piled up on itself. This frantic plot movement was fast-paced when at its best, but just as often felt rushed and unsure.

This continued in the characterization. Some characters were allowed to grow gradually, but others remained half-formed. The villain was so ridiculous that he was less a foil for the hero than a plot device. Yet, he was not ridiculous enough to be campy, which has saved other villains (and heroes) in TenNapel's idiomatic works.

The art also had its highs and lows. At its best, his minimalist chiaroscuro evoked an exciting, fluid world, filled with both the surreal and the recognizable. Other times, the rough starkness lost the cohesion which made it so evocative. It vacillates between the brilliant illustrations of Calvin and Hobbes and the unsureness of a mid-level webcomic.

The entire work gives the impression that TenNapel is throwing his story out as it comes, unplanned and spontaneous. Whenever he achieves something difficult with his deceptively simple style, it seems all the more impressive. However, whenever he fails to do something simple, it drags the whole work down. It feels as if there was no editor to ground his flights of fancy.

Likewise, the religious subtext which makes this less of an adventure and more of a morality play felt shallow and tacked on. I really enjoy the inherent philosophy of a work, and whether or not it agrees with me, I appreciate seeing authors tackle ideas. However, TenNapel's atheist is a straw man, and though his progression is spiritualized, it is achieved wholly by tangible proof and revelation. The small moments of argumentation were more like Plato's instructional 'dialogues' than real, human interaction.

The wild, far-flung aspects of this book were interesting and amusing, but the specifics were murky and roughshod. While this was, in part, the result of stylistic choices, TenNapel's characteristic flair never really overcomes the sense that this is just a rough draft. In the end, the spirituality couldn't exorcise the devil in the details.

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