Animal Crackers - Gene Luen Yang

I've read a few other books by Gene Yang and I like his drawing style, which has sharp, clean lines and expressive characters. He plays around with stereotypes, so some of his characters initially appear a little two-dimensional but then often have some unexpected depth.

Animal Crackers is a collection of two stories: "Gordon Yamamoto and the King of the Geeks," which was Yang's first comic as an adult (and won him a Xeric Grant), and "Loyola Chin and the San Peligran Order." The stories feature some of the same characters and overlapping plotlines, but aren't really very similar to each other.

Gordon Yamamoto is a big thug of a high schooler. He and his friend Devon pick on the incoming freshmen, crowning one the King of the Geeks. But aside from picking on Miles Tanner, Gordon is also having some weird dreams, mostly involving his nose. Things get pretty weird—at one point it involves plugging a TV cable into his nostril, and then there are the animal crackers that come to life. While it's got all these strange sci-fi/fantasy elements, at its core it's a story about bullying and friendship. (But Yang's crazy imagination and sense of humor prevent it from being an after-school special despite the lessons learned at the end.)

Loyola Chin is in Gordon's math class, and he has a crush on her. But that's not really what her story is about. It starts with her discovery that her dreams are affected by what she eats just before bed, and leads her to discover the San Peligran Order, a secret society devoted to protecting humanity. As it turns out, Yang is a Roman Catholic and this story is part of his working out his faith and beliefs. It's not something that I'd noticed in his other comics, so it was a bit of a surprise at first, but I can see how his other stories are all compatible with it, too.

The first story doesn't really focus on Yang's faith at all, and it really only enters in the last portion of the second story. Yang is pretty straight-forward about it: it's not thinly disguised in alien terms (as in Doug TenNapel's Creature Tech). Loyola goes into a church, and reflects on a few memories that are specifically about her beliefs and religion.

But although it's not subtle, I feel like Yang also doesn't beat the reader over the head with it, either—it's presented as one character's choice, and the consequences are left (purposely, I'd guess) a little ambiguous. I enjoyed the book, and look forward to seeing what else he comes up with.

Fed to jonathan's brain | October 07, 2010 | Comments (0)


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