Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza

Written and Illustrated by James Kochalka
Published by First Second

The Glorkian Warrior needs an adventure, and examining his feet isn't enough! When a phone call leads to a need for a pepperoni (whatever that is) pizza, it's up to him and his long-suffering Super Backpack to deliver, if they can avoid the many dangers that await them--many created by the Glorkian Warrior himself! It's an insane all-ages romp as only James Kochalka can deliver, and your appreciate of this one is going to rely heavily on your feelings about the long-time diarist, sometime musician, and his iconoclastic style.

The character of the Glorkian Warrior was created as part of a video game project back in 2010, with Kochalka working with Pixeljam to create it, back, as the website notes, "before crowd sourcing was a universally recognized concept." I haven't personally played the game, because its style isn't really my thing.

This graphic novel requires no real understanding of the game, however. The premise of an excitable, incredibly stupid main character and his wise, but suffering sidekick is shown early on, with patented Kochalka lines that will be easily familiar to anyone who has read Johnny Boo or Dragon Puncher. The Warrior ranges from childish misunderstanding to quick rage to moments of self-loathing. The dialogue comes fast, furious, and with a strong emphasis on silly combinations of wordplay. Kochalka likes recurring jokes, using the size of the lettering to highlight certain words, and never worrying overly much on the details. Kochalka's kids comics feel like they spontaneously ebb and flow on the whim of imagination, and this one is no exception. Enemies become allies, improbable actions work out perfectly, and in the end, the main character gets his wish. Sure the solution is a bit silly, with a nod to "It was Earth all along" in its way, but like the Warrior, a reader should just roll with it and enjoy the ride.

It's that kind of hopeful uplift which makes Kochalka's all-ages work something I'd easily give to a child without reservations. Though there are some dark tones, especially when the Warrior is literally beating up on himself for perceived failure, the character is very real and human, despite having three eyes and apparently a limitless ability to tolerate physical abuse. His stupidity is really funny (this is some of Kochalka's best verbal wordplay in an all-ages book in my opinion), but he has a good, if a bit exaggerated heart and refuses to fail.

That's a message I want my non-existent kids to internalize.

Visually, Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza is amazing. Kochalka's linework is never going to improve, unlike, say, someone such as Jeffrey Brown or Box Brown, who clearly keep refining their style. He has a way of drawing and it works very well for him. His characters are designed simply, allowing them to flow across the page without details getting in the way, like getting a belt buckle in just the right place or ensuring the patterns on a creature are correct. Super Backpack is bright yellow with two red stripes. The Warrior wears a fetching shade of sky blue from head to toe, without so much as a seam. Gonk is a pink head with feet and two giant buck teeth. Because they're easy to move around, Kochalka can have them do everything from going upside down in a crashed space-ship to attacking a flying saucer with Kung Fu.

The pictures are appropriately insane and match the crazy talk of the Glorkian Warrior. The scenes set up several dialogue jokes nicely, and everything is extremely clear and easy to follow, if a bit stilted at times (such as an awkward sequence where the Warrior uses Super Backpack to fire at the UFO). Combined with a color scheme that's so bright and vibrant and swirling lines in the purple space backgrounds, this was a lot of fun to just linger on and look at the ways Kochalka uses his skills to tell the story.

The Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza is another fun entry, with Kochalka Quality on every page, in his all-ages bibliography. It's not got a long of long-term appeal to an adult, but if you have children, this one is very highly recommended, and his American Elf fans will enjoying watching his personal philosophy applied to a kids book. One warning though--this one's sure to make you want a pizza, so keep your favorite shop's delivery number handy. Just don't expect them to offer "steering wheel" as a topping, and you should be just fine.

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