2 out of 5
Frank Gibson is a funny guy. I know this to be true because I laughed quite a bit at his Amazing Gumball series, which I didn’t laugh at when other writers took their turn. And though artist Tyson Hesse undeniably added visual zing to the formula, isolated to his own series – Diesel – I found similar joke timings but without the same laugh-out-loud effect of Gumball. This seems like a fairly scientific approach to verifying: Frank Gibson is a funny guy.
Alas, being funny at one-and-done books like Gumball doesn’t necessarily translate to a being aces at constructing a larger narrative.
With fellow web-comic buddy Becky Dreistadt, Frank had created the art book Capture Creatures, sort of their own addition to the Pokemon catalogue, with creature descriptions by Frank and illustrations by Becky. And down the road, this concept got picked up as an ongoing title for Boom! by the same team. Admittedly, I don’t own the Capture Creatures book, so perhaps some of the story elements that are missing in the comic are filled in there, but that’s not exactly how the series is written. There are also clear proxies to its Pokemon inspiration, but again, not in such a way that really works, either as homage or parody.
Two kids are hanging out on some kind of island “reclamation” project – the land being re-treed and re-animaled – when an odd red panda thing goes running off to a neighboring island. The kids follow – with a doting island ranger in tow – and end up stuck on the other island, along with a whole bunch more odd creatures. The creatures turn out to have fire or ice powers, and tend to battle. There’s also some dispute going on between two mysterious masked beings.
…All that’s fine. Its a kid’s book, with the primary intent of featuring cute critters; I wasn’t expecting much story depth, and the setup is certainly serviceable enough for its intent. But after an okay first issue with some okay chuckles, the series starts slowly dissembling, Becky’s comedic timing not synced up with Frank’s words and Frank bumbling the introduction of various intended world-building elements by not being sure when to explain them, or when to treat them like surprises, or when to underplay them for yuks, and so he does it all, for everything. Thus it feels like everyone simultaneously knows how the island works but is also baffled by it. And poor Becky: Her delightfully flat art is great for the low-stakes chuckles, but once Frank’s script gets confused, her character responses become equally so, and it’s unfortunately clear that big scale action sequences (say, battles between over-sized critters) just aren’t her bag – the choreography is rather clumsy, with big chunks of moments lost between panels.
Colorists Joseph Bergin III and Lin Visel and letterer Britt Wilson are fantastic foils for Becky’s bright, bubbly style, though those word balloons must, by necessity, suffer the same What Are We Talking About Now? mish-mash as the script.
Frank’s humor is there and his history with Becky on web-comic projects suggests they know how to work together, but it seems the scaled-up demands of a full-blown narrative and comic may have been above and beyond the call.
Note: The series has seemingly stalled after four issues. It happened before my review could ruin their careers, I swear.