One of my biggest flubs of last year was forgetting to review the first volume of this series. It’s a book that has stuck in my mind since reading it and even more after finishing the second volume. If you’re unfamiliar with the story let me recap you some since I don’t have a review to direct you towards. Andy Go dropped out of art school to take on the world and found that the world is a harsh, harsh mistress. He didn’t land his dream job of being a professional illustrator, nor did he land any of his back up jobs. He instead ends up signing up to be an attraction at a zoo… in a parallel dimension. The first volume was brilliant as it set up Andy’s first day in the zoo, but since he didn’t believe it was real nor did he read his contract… he’s confused why aliens are watching him pee from a half recreated model of his parents’ house. The rest of the first volume sets up Andy’s life prior to the zoo and establishes his friends, family and Yumi… the girl he has a crush on.
The second volume brilliantly picks up with Andy finishing his wiz in the toilet. He zips his fly and runs back to his room only to discover that the wall is completely gone still and the aliens can still see him. He freaks out as he didn’t realize until just now what he’s gotten himself into. Unfortunately for Andy he’s still not grasping the entire picture. He hears the familiar voice of the woman the recruited him (later known to us as “Dash”) as she leans into his “habitat” from a window that he didn’t notice in the wall. She walks him through the basics of the habitat and when the feeding times are as she gives him breakfast. It’s a tray containing all of his favorites which he consumes in full gluttony mode. From there he gets accustomed to the “habitat” and even begins to put on a show for the crowd. He takes to one little boy that he works to impress rather than loose his attention to another exhibit.
Andy’s thoughts also drift back to Yumi. Before signing up for the zoo he had just discovered that she had mutual feelings for him. He decides that once the zoo closes that he’s going to find some way to call her and this one event ties largely into the fine print of Andy’s contract… that he didn’t read.
The story is fantastic. The zoo element is very interesting and obviously a bit humorous on its own. Sure on the outside never having to work again, being feed your favorite foods and being taken care of 24/7 seems great… but captivity is still captivity. Andy’s range of emotions and attitude as the story goes on is very relatable and believable. His burst of joy when thinking about Yumi, the anger he feels towards his predicament and his pride in being a human are all very real feeling.
I’ll admit that I saw where the plot was going in the last volume as you were probably supposed to, but I knew that the journey was going to be incredible. It didn’t let me down. This volume actually only covers a few days of Andy’s time in the zoo, but the pacing gives you the impression of him being there for a while. Again, its captivity and being locked in one area all day is sure to mess with your sense of time. The dialogue and plot progression was fantastic; I just wish that there was more to read in this volume.
Something that I noticed with both volumes was the page set-up. Very often a page will only have four panels and they rarely appear in the same layout. It’s as if they’re floating around the page. There’s something about this that gives the book a unique feel and structure. Especially with the black background and white specs representing stars; I don’t know if this is supposed to represent something in the story, but I hope that it does. If not it’s still very cool and a different layout for a comic/graphic novel.
Otherwise the art is incredible. How could it not be? It’s about an art student that drops out to become a famous illustrator so you know that the art will be good. One aspect I really enjoy is seeing Andy’s art inside of the story. It has the same basic style due to the story construction, but there are a lot of aspects that are different. It shows the talent and range of Les McClaine. McClaine is actually new to the series as writer/creator Derek Kirk Kim handled everything on the first volume. This definitely explains why the series was able to release the second volume so quickly. McClaine does a great job of mimicking Kim’s style, but after comparing the two volumes there are slight differences. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that one volume is better than the other, just that McClaine adds his own flair to the story and that it works without being distracting.
This is one of those ideas that you wish you had thought of. It’s simple in its premise, but then the execution makes it great. The story of a human in a zoo run by a parallel dimension has won me over. I’m very hopefully for a third volume next year. Hell I’d take a third volume tomorrow if I could, it’s that good. New pages are updated three times a week on First Seconds’ site if you’re interested. I know that I sing a lot of praises for First Seconds line of books, but let me assure you that they deserve your attention and money.
Writer: Derek Kirk Kim Artist: Les McClaine Publisher: First Second Books Price: $16.99 Release Date: 11/20/13