Earthworm Jim 2: Fight the Fish! Chapter 1: Princess Has-A-Name – Doug TenNapel

4 out of 5

A single issue preview of Doug’s forthcoming EWJ 2 graphic novel, the Jim-return hinted at in the preceding GN’s last pages comes to fruition, as Bob the Goldfish – cat minions in tow – is tasked to Earth to kidnap the Princess.

This is a super exciting issue, with lots of great action – really well choreographed from TenNapel – and some laugh-out-loud jokes, which are a step up from the (appreciated, but all the same…) dad humor Doug usually employs, and this stacks up well with his physical comedy and exuberant art style. …Which looks awesome, here! Surely, anyone following TenNapel is already a fan of his art, but his linework is especially tight in this first issue, and every page layout is pretty perfect. The daytime / Earth setting also gives colorist Katherine Garner a much broader palette to work with, and her enhancements look equally fantastic as a result. The icing on the cake is a cover from Mike Mignola (colored, as ever, by Dave Stewart), whose blocky art style has a synergy with Doug’s looser work in a way I’d never have identified until now.

…The only thing that sort of sticks out, here, is the very literal damsel-ing of Princess What’s-Her-Name. Yeah, the character was created to be damseled in the video games, which was sort of the joke, but we now have the opportunity to flesh her out, and instead, she’s kidnapped and set as the quest goal within a few pages. Of course, I’m only judging a first issue, but – not always, though often – Doug’s female characters are reduced down to these kinds of save-me / Mary Sue qualities, and it stuck out like a sore thumb here. EWJ trades in hero tropes and goofiness, so I don’t mean to make a big stink – I absolutely enjoyed the issue and look forward to the full trade – but boiled down to this thin slice of story (i.e. a preview of a larger book), this aspect felt more apparent.