Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Space Dumplins by Craig Thompson

I came by this book in the old-fashioned way. I hadn’t heard anything about it until I was in an indy comics shop in Manchester and there it was, out on display. I flicked and read, browsed further down the shelf, then returned and read some more… and eventually bought it in hardback, without knowing anything about the author or reading any of the reviews.

Must admit, I don’t keep up much with what’s new in Graphic novels. I grew up obsessed with Marvel comics, but so much of what comes out nowadays seems a little grim and portentous if it’s aimed at non-comics fans, or a bit silly, butch and warlike if it’s aimed at readers within that rarefied world. All I’ve read that I’ve really loved – in comics form – in recent years is the comic strip version of Adventure Time. ‘Space Dumplins’ seems to have a touch of the Adventure Time spirit about it – the same bandy, bendy figures in bright, action-figure colours and a similar kind of wild inventiveness and free-wheeling spontaneity and genre-aware cleverness in the story-telling. Also, it’s just about as ludicrously silly.

Thompson’s huge, heavy, three-hundred page novel also reminded me of the early Marvel Star Wars comics – the adventures set straight after the first movie. The ones created by comics people massively enthusiastic about space operas – completely unencumbered by the po-faced reverence and canon-fever than has weighed down Star Warsy stuff ever since. In 1977 I was thrilled by six feet tall, blaster-wielding green rabbits and worlds that were nothing but seas for space age pirate ships to plunder. I think ‘Space Dumplins’ has that same feeling for surrealism and adventure – with its space-faring whales and their toxic bum troubles, space-labs disguised as giant lobsters, mad scientist chickens, loony fashion designers and a ragbag collection of wobbly, misguided, untrustworthy and supremely lovable cast of characters.

It’s about a little girl called Violet who is separated from her home and parents, who must team up with two other kids – one of them a neurotic and cowardly chicken, the other a hot-tempered bright orange doglike sausagelike Lumpkin thing from a rubbish dump. Together they’ve got to rescue a baby space whale to stop the universe going to hell in a welter of glowing green shit.

It’s endless, unstoppable, touching and hilarious. It might get a bit gooey over the daddy and mummy and baby stuff… but it’s got enough freaks and oddbods to appease a reader like me.

And how lovely to read a Graphic Novel for once! And revel in the beautiful details and all the jokes tucked away in the corners of frames. All those sharply painted lines taking the place of all the endless, tedious DESCRIPTION we get in normal novels. Just cutting to the dialogue! Cutting to the chase! It’s like taking a glorious long weekend in outer space.

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