ODD IS ON OUR SIDE
Written by Fred Van Lente and Dean Koontz and Drawn by Queenie Chan
Published by Del Rey
Reviewed by Marc Mason
Halloween is coming in Pico Mundo, and Odd Thomas is about to have a busy holiday. The young fry cook, with his ability to see the dead, gets a visit from a dead child still wearing her costume, giving him a pervading sense of dread about the upcoming town-wide trick-or-treat festival. Aided by his gun-toting girlfriend Stormy and the ghost of Elvis, the clock is ticking for Odd to save the day… and the lives of dozens of children.
This is the second graphic novel prequel based on Koontz’ ODD THOMAS series, and much like the first one, this one grabs you by the lapels and sucks you in quickly. It isn’t so much the plot that captivates, but the characters- in Odd Thomas, Koontz has his finest creation. The boy has a perfect blend of charm, naïveté, and pluck, and his chemistry with Stormy is so much fun that you wouldn’t mind spending the entire book watching them drive around in a car and yapping with one another. We also get a new supporting character this time in the person of novelist Ozzie Boone, and he’s a complete hoot as well. The people are just fun, and if you can get that across to the reader, 90% of the battle is done.
Of course, they wouldn’t be as much fun if they weren’t drawn spectacularly well, and Queenie Chan delivers the good stuff on the page. The first book looked good, but it wasn’t always sure of itself. That isn’t the case here. Every page looks confident, and the characters have life that you can feel emanating from Chan’s linework.
If there is one thing to complain about as pertains to this book, it is that it shows (as the first graphic novel did) that the first ODD THOMAS novel’s ending was one of the worst mistakes that the author has ever made on the page. There was so much more to mine, so much more that could have been discovered, without the plot twist in the final ten pages. It made me swear off reading any of the rest of the prose works; but I will happily read as many more of these prequel graphic novels as Del Rey chooses to make.
DEAN KOONTZ’S FRANKENSTEIN VOL 1
Adaptation by Chuck Dixon and Drawn by Brett Booth
Published by Del Rey
240 years after the villagers stormed the castle to try and kill Victor Frankenstein’s patchwork monster, he is living in a monastery at the top of the world trying to find inner peace. However, that inner peace is disrupted by the arrival of bad news: his creator is still somehow alive, and he is living in the city of New Orleans, slavishly working to create a master race of artificial people that will become the next master race. The now-civilized creature must make his way to America, but as he does, he will find himself embroiled in a policewoman’s quest to track down a serial killer. Or… are there multiple serial killers?
Dean Koontz is a hit-and-miss writer, to put it gently. When he’s on his game, such as with ODD THOMAS, he’s compulsively readable. But when he’s not… well, not even an excellent comic book writer like Chuck Dixon can make Koontz’s work come to any semblance of life, and that’s very much the case with this graphic novel reprint of the series originally produced by the Dabel Brothers back in 2005.
Why doesn’t it work? Many reasons. The story is convoluted and hard to follow. In particular, the transitions between the various plots are jarring. The characters are trite and kind of cardboard, though Dixon does his level best to try and give them some zing. But the one thing Dixon can’t overcome even the slightest is the work of artist Brett Booth.
Booth’s work has always been spotty at best, as he came up through the ranks working in the Image house-style in the mid-90s, and this is among his worst efforts. The anatomy is poor, his faces are bland-looking, body language is completely absent… and he mistakes adding more lines for actual flow and backgrounds.
My other qualm about the book is that it’s a $23 hardcover graphic novel… with “To Be Continued” on the last page of the story. When I spend that much money on a book, I expect a complete story. End of story.
So, unless you are a Koontz completist, I’d say you can safely skip this FRANKENSTEIN.
IN ODD WE TRUST
Written and Drawn by Dean Koontz and Queenie Chan and Drawn by Queenie Chan
Published by Ballantine
Odd Thomas whips up the best pancakes of any fry cook in Pico Mundo, California. He has a girlfriend named Stormy who not only loves him immensely, but who can also pretty much kick the ass of anyone who wants to start trouble- the “benefits” of growing up in an orphanage. But more than that, Odd has a bit of a special talent- he can see the spirits of the dead, and they happen to enjoy communicating with the young man. It doesn’t bother him though- most of those spirits are pretty peaceful and just want to be acknowledged. The ones that get to him? Those are the ones who want justice for how their lives ended. And that tends to lead Odd and Stormy into some sticky situations.
This “prequel” to Koontz’ novel series featuring Odd introduces us to the characters and setting with the case of a brutally murdered child and the risk it brings to Stormy’s best friend. Koontz and Chan slowly work us into Odd’s world before dropping us into the violence, allowing the reader to get to know him, which is smart; ideally, this book will fall into the hands of many who have never picked up one of the novels, so it’s important to establish what’s going on, who we’re dealing with, and why we should care.
And it works- frankly, the pieces of this book that don’t grab the reader are the ones dealing with the pursuit of the killer. But when Odd and Stormy and the other characters are interacting, the book takes on some real life and verve. It helps to have the terrific Chan on art chores- Queenie has been a rising star on the manga scene over the past couple of years, and she doesn’t disappoint with her storytelling here.
I’ve never read a Koontz novel to the finish, frankly, because they’ve never really appealed to me. But I liked enough of what I read here that I may just pick up the first ODD novel and give it a shot. This book is far from perfect, but it succeeds precisely in what it’s meant to do.