Emily Edison

By | Thursday, March 29, 2007 Leave a Comment
I took Emily Edison to read during lunch today, as that looked to be one of the more interesting books I've gotten this week. (Yes, that's in lieu of just catching up with the brand new stuff that came out.) Between the intriguing art style and the classic robots and aliens all seen on the cover, this had my interest piqued.

Let me start by saying that I generally read a book's Foreward last. A Foreward is often written by someone who's already read the story you're about to read, and frequently does NOT assume that you haven't actually read it yourself. They also have a tendency to posit their impression of what they think the book/characters/creators should be compared to. I prefer making those judgements myself and not prejudicing my reading of the material immediately prior to reading it. (This will actually be relevant towards the end of my review. Tuck this info away for the moment.)

The story itself is set up in the first two pages. Inventor John Edison accidentally discovered another dimension, fell in love with one its inhabitants, got married, had a child, and got divorced. The child, Emily, is now in her teens and living with Dad, while visiting Mom in her home dimension on the weekends. Oh and, by the way, Emily has all the ill-defined super powers common to those living in her mother's home dimension.

The basic story from there is that Emily's maternal grandfather wants her to live in their dimension, but Emily simply prefers Earth. So over the years, Grandad has tried many a scheme to try to persuade/convince/trick/steal/drag Emily back to his dimension. All have been unsuccessful due to Emily's resourcefulness and intellect. (That, plus most of them were REALLY lame plans in the first place!) The book runs through several more of Grandad's schemes culminating, in theory, in a resolution that should put the issue to rest for good.

The writing was good. Solid characterization throughout, smooth and natural dialogue. Most importantly, I think, writer David Hopkins let Brock Rizy's art stand on it's own when it came to telling the story. He didn't bother with an overly expository narrative when the art conveyed what was happening. He also didn't fall into the standard superhero trap where the hero spouts witicisms and one-liners while battling whatever foe he's up against. Emily largely kept quiet during the fight scenes, and only spoke up once she had a chance to breath.

There are actually two slightly different illustration styles in this book. Everything that happens on Earth is drawn in a cartoony, but more-or-less traditional style. Black outlines around everything, large black shadows, etc. Everything that happens in the other dimension is drawn without edge lines and defines objects more with shapes (as seen on the cover, at right). Further, natives of this other dimension are rendered the same way, even when they travel to Earth. So visually, there's a neat hook to help readers follow along where things are happening. Unfortunately, it does take a little while to catch on to the trick, so the first chapter can be a little confusing while the reader figures that out.

I think the biggest fault I can find in the book is that the storytelling isn't always particularly smooth. This especially evident early on with two significant flashbacks in the first dozen pages. It's difficult to tell at first that we are actually reading flashbacks and equally difficult to tell that we're flashing forward at the end of them. There's not many flashback scenes in the book, so this isn't hugely detrimental, but that we have them so early in the book also hinders the initial readability.

There are also a few scenes where it's not particularly easy to read what's going on. It felt, in places, like I was reading a storyboard and not a comic book. While they're quite similar to be sure, they are different animals, and I think that's evident in the art.

Interestingly, though, that same storyboard technique seems to lend itself to some what-I-think-are-creative approaches to classic comic book conventions. For example, most of the sound effects are not onomatopoetic at all, but rather simple descriptions. "Punch!" "Catch!" "Head stomp!" "Vortex!" Also, some of the action is simplified to one panel, but explained with arrows not unlike Bil Keane's famous roaming adventures of young Billy in "Family Circle." Keane used it as shorthand because of the limitation of only having one panel to work with, but it's infrequently used in comic books, where the artist has the flexibility to work in multiple pages/panels.

Overall, the book was solid and read something like a particularly good episode of Kim Possible. It felt like a cartoon written into a comic. Not the simplistic plot-driven ones I saw as a kid, but the more complex character-driven ones I've seen more recently.

As I said earlier, I read the Foreward last. And writer Dave Crosland also notes a Emily Edison's similarity to a cartoon. But he puts it into context of waking up Saturday mornings and sitting in front of the TV until lunchtime. Definitely NOT the idea I would want to have going into the book, and I'm glad I held off until after reading the story.

So, to sum up, a solid story with good illustrations and decent storytelling. At $12.95, it's worth taking a look at. Especially if you like comedy/action/adventure stories like Kim Possible.
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