Written and Illustrated by Otis Frampton
Published by Image Comics
On Halloween, Otis Frampton was signing at my local comics shop. If you aren't familiar with Frampton's work, you can visit his website and find out how funny he is. Since I was there indulging my inner comics and cosplay love, I was fortunate enough to get a signed copy of his newest trade for Oddly Normal.
If you haven't read Oddly Normal, here's the run down:
Oddly is a half witch girl living in a pretty run-of-the-mill town. But being a witch has downsides, namely that she doesn't have many friends, well, any friends. She sports pointed ears and green hair, her family, while loving, is kind of strange. Worst yet, they think that she fits right in. When she has her tenth birthday party and no one shows up, she gets into a fight with her parents. She doesn't realize that witches get wishes on their tenth birthday and accidentally wishes them away.
Having seemingly ruined her life, Oddly then has to go stay in the witch realm with her aunt (a real cackler of a witch). That would be great, except that she still has to go to school, and she's kind of lonely, and she's feeling guilty, and she doesn't know how to get her parents back.
One of the aspects I really enjoyed about both volumes of Oddly Normal is the way it shows pre-teen life. Oddly doesn't have the burdens of adulthood; she isn't overly precocious. But being, well, normal, doesn't make life too much easier. She's still contending with some outsider-ness. Her school situation isn't overly difficult, but kids are still occasionally terrible. At the same time, Frampton doesn't exaggerate the horrors of middle school. It's all surmountable, even when it's kind of terrible.
Similarly, the book is funny. It approaches Oddly's life and situation with a sense of sarcasm that is age-appropriate and still striking. Like most kids, Oddly knows when she's being lied to or pepped up. She's aware of the mild condescension in some adult-kid conversations and ALSO aware that these conversations can still be positive and make you feel better about a sucky situation. I liked this self-awareness in the story and in the characters.
Oddly has a great group of friends and they run the gambit from jock to nerdy. There's a little bit there for everyone. It's a clique-transcending cast that doesn't feel forced.
On top of all this, the art is pretty great. It's whimsical. It plays on some of the classic monster-movie tropes. The highly-saturated color palate is sure to win points with the kids, but there's a sense of intention and sophistication that makes it appealable to adults as well.
I really think that Oddly Normal is a fantastic story with a sense of humor and adventure that still plays to the every-day realities of adolescence. If you haven't picked up Oddly Normal, yet, do it.