Author: Jen Wang
Publisher: First Second
Release Date: 09/14/2010
Graphic novels have always had a good fanbase, but now that they’re gaining more publicity there’s been an influx of books (both series & standalones) flooding the market. While that’s great in so many different ways, it also means that it is that much easier to get lost in the crowd. Unfortunately Koko might be one of those books that some might overlook, which would be a shame.
The book follows three characters- the titular Koko (an energetic girl who seems to want more), Jon (a 20 something who just wants to move to Peru to be with his girl), & Faron (Koko’s sidekick). When Jon meets Koko & Faron at a party, he can’t help but become captivated by her, only to then see her vanish into the night after an ugly scene. Jon later discovers Faron at work in a local diner & convinces him to introduce the two of them. What follows is a voyage of self discovery as Jon tries to figure out what he really wants, Koko tries to gain more meaning into her life, & Faron just tries to get by.
The artwork really is the best part of this book. Wang’s artwork manages to capture both the various emotions of the cast as well as Koko’s almost inexhaustible energy. She doesn’t skimp on the backgrounds either with just about every scene getting lovingly captured in water colors. Wang seems to play around with color, using it in various formats to enhance the scene. One scene that sticks out in my head is one later in the book of Koko’s room where it lacks a great deal of color- enhancing the empty feeling of the scene & the characters’ emotions.
Unfortunately where the book lacks is in the storytelling department. The artwork manages to smooth over the rough spots, but not to the point where you don’t notice that it needed more finesse. It takes a while to get into the story & to figure out what is going on. Wang might have intended for the reader to fill in the blanks with their own interpretations, but it would have been nice for a little more story & character definition. Not a whole lot more, but just a little more backstory on some of the characters would be nice. (I’d like to see more of Koko’s history as a Candy Girl.) It just lacks a little coherence at times.
This is a good story with awesome artwork, but it’s just not quite a 5 star type read for me. I can’t help but think it just needed to simmer for a little while longer. This is definitely a great graphic novel & Wang’s going on my list of “to watch” indie artists, but it just needed a little more work on the storyline.
(ARC provided by Amazon Vine Voice)