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Earthboy Jacobus
Review by James W. Powell

Earthboy Jacobus Review: Cover Image
Earthboy Jacobus

Doug TenNapel
Doug TenNapel

Image Comics
Original Softcover
Publish Date
June 8, 2005
Cover Price

They say that the ending can make or break any story. No matter how bad the beginning and middle, just as long as you wow 'em at the end. While Earthboy Jacobus isn't a terrible story by any stretch of the imagination, it's the ending that elevates it a notch or two. The twist at the end doesn't necessarily change my views of what came before, however, it does add depth and understanding to the entire story. But does a quality ending make the reading experience worth going through all over again? I'm not entirely sure.

Created by Doug TenNapel (Creature Tech, Tommysaurus Rex), Earthboy Jacobus is the tale loaded with as many themes as their are creatures and poop jokes. On the day of his retirement, Chief stumbles into the most bizarre situations: he wrecks his car into a time traveling whale that has swallowed a little boy. Just as his life seems to be winding down, Chief rescues the boy and raises him as his own, saving him from the evil Ectoids as well as the school yard bullies. The boy has given the old man a reason to live.

TenNapel really loads this book with meaning. Chief's tale is one fraught with fears of being a parent, while Jake's is filled with his need for acceptance and purpose. It's really a coming of age story for them both, as they both develop and learn as the story progresses. There are also elements of love and hate, religion and government. The reader will certainly bring his or her own perspective to this story, which makes it accessible to many.

Yet the story isn't one giant metaphor, either. No, there's some great science-fiction fun here, right down to the invading aliens and the witty one-liners on the battlefield. TenNapel has definitely encased his themes inside a story that's filled with adventure and excitement. If you look closely, you'll even be able to find subtle references to other great science fiction hits such as Star Wars and Aliens, or Matrix and Dune.

The beginning and ending are the highlights of the book, without a dobut. However, there's a middle to contend with. The story, while still entertaining, does drag a bit in the middle. Jake's solitary adventures definitely add insight into his character, but it takes too long to get there and the action begins to feel repetitious. Plus, there are a few too many poop jokes that, while humorous, take away from the passion of the underlying themes.

When looking back on my experience reading this book, I realize there were several highs and lows. The beginning and ending were wonderful, but unfortunately, the middle is what sticks in my mind. I'll certainly read this one again, if for no other reason then to see how it reads after knowing the truth shown during the climax, but I'm not sure I'll ever be able to look back and say with much enthusiasm that this book was a knockout success.


TenNapels art in Earthboy Jacobus isn't totally refined, which gives the story a more frenzied tone, particularly during the hectic battle and chase scenes. While I certainly wouldn't call his style cartoony, there are elements of exaggeration here. This actually works well on an emotional level; TenNapel really captures the characters' thoughts and feelings through their bulging eyes or amplified movements. At the same time, there are subtle moments that are caught perfectly, too.

The only problem I found with TenNapels art is that it almost seems inconsistent. Some panels a very detailed, yet others aren't as precise. It's not always obvious what's happening during the action scenes because certain elements, particularly the aliens, aren't drawn crisply. This adds to the chaos for the scene, but it often took me out of the moment because I needed to study the images to fully grasp what was happening.

All in all, I really think the art fits the story rather nicely. It's fun with childish moments, yet at the same time, it's deep and thoughtful...just like the story itself.

Final Words

My feelings for this book are a bit difficult to summarize. It starts out with such promise, only to be bogged down in the middle-to-last half of the book. Luckily, the revelation at the end makes the experience very enjoyable. I think Earthboy Jacobus is a must-buy for TenNapel fans and for anyone interested in quirky witted science fiction. For the rest of you, I'd suggest you tread lightly.

Mildly Recommended

James has written for such fine web sites as DVDtalk, Broken Frontier, and Paperback Reader. He lives in Denver with his lovely wife and two cats who wake him up at 3 a.m.
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