Existence is threatened by an invasion that started at the dawn of time, and the only hope of defeating the universal threat sits with an at large group of galaxy police misfits.
Joe King vs. World’s Greatest Average Hero, written and created by George Peter Gatsis, is a most unique graphic novel for a very unique time. George created, wrote and illustrated this 120-plus page all-ages adventure, which may actually be too much content for new and younger readers, adding to some of the difficulties I experienced in reading it. My review copy was in digital format, so having a physical copy would likely have make reading it much easier.
Reading this book was my first introduction to Joe King, who is a highly charismatic character with an incredible cape that allows him to pull items as if by magic. Humorously, he is a very clueless character which adds to his charm, and his incredible powers remind me of Saitama from the One-Punch Man manga. Just like that character, Joe doesn’t take himself too seriously, and his naivety helps put him in hilarious situations throughout the book.
One of my favorite characters introduced, and the main plotline that has to be navigated in this book, is Ms. Take, a genie that grants wishes in a hilarious way. As she explains:
The play on words, names, and pronunciations is clever (Jo-King), and this comic is a time travel adventure, so if you’re a fan of that type of dynamic, embrace yourself for the trip of a lifetime. There are so many threads to follow in this story that it might make your head spin. Between the panels are narrator comments that help guide the reader through the overall arch in a similar fashion as the old “Choose Your Own Adventure” books. While it is not necessary to follow those instructions, it does help to clarify some of the plot points throughout the book.
However, sometimes I think that navigation hindered the story a bit. While it’s an interesting approach, there’s an excessive number of these narration panels that perform several functions that sometimes seem to clash with each other. In one page, the narration panel will inform the reader of the more technical aspects of the scenes, but in the next page this same narration panel is making fourth-wall breaking jokes that sometimes miss the mark.
Other times, this narration takes the reader completely out of the story by over explaining or over exposing something in the panels. I think this same effect could have been achieved by using an approach like Deadpool where distinct voices are identified by colors; each of those personalities serves a different purpose such as joking with the audience or introducing complex technical explanations in an otherwise goofy scene.
On the plus side, the comic is gorgeously colored, vibrant and probably very enticing for younger readers. While the art is not necessarily my style, this style of coloring for this type of storytelling works perfectly. Just a customary glance at some of the pages will bring a sense of nostalgia to many parents that grew up reading children’s books and comics. The way the colors are used to reflect the tension in the scene is a also great way to help introduce thematic elements for younger readers without using grotesque or inappropriate imagery.
At times the text overpowers the art and there’s no clear way to identify who is speaking what line. Again, I felt like younger readers may get lost here. A vast amount of text can be expected in more mature books, but for younger audiences I think its best to try to keep short panels for shorter attention spans. If a large amount of text is required for more populated panels, text color is a great way to identify the speaker and to allow newer readers to follow the narrative.
Overall, this is a densely packed story with an almost overwhelming amount of content. However, this amount of content can help bring people together, especially when introducing younger readers to the world of comics. The best way to describe this book is by remembering when you took a young child to see movies like Toy Story, there are jokes in there directed at the adult audience as well as ample material for kids. This type of delivery allows both adults and children to enjoy something together, and this book has ample material to bring laughs to all involved.
In spite of my criticisms, this is still a solid 4 out of 5. While I felt like the time traveling elements and the need for a compass to navigate through this story, it was still quite interesting and fun to read. The characters are endearing and have a solid possibility of becoming some time-tested mascots of our time. If you’re looking for a book to introduce your younger family members to the world of comics, I recommend this for your collection.
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