Mike’s out of work, out of money, and fast becoming out of hope. With his wife gone and life seeming to slip out of control he’s forced to give the World’s Worst Birthday Present to his son Cam: a cardboard box. When they realize that the cardboard is magic and anything they make with it comes to life, they break the cardboard magic rules and make a magic cardboard maker out of cardboard to make endless cardboard creations. Mike learns the folly of disobeying Cardboard Rules when the snooty rich kid Marcus steals the cardboard maker and begins making an evil cardboard army.
This is a very close to great (and often great) graphic novel form TenNapel. I quite enjoyed his previous book Bad Island but complained that it was too short (right here). Cardboard feels much bigger both in its page count, but also in scope. It has amazing designs, loads of twists, suspense, action, laughs, and pitch perfect cartoony style art. Then why would I say it isn’t a capital ‘G’ Great Graphic Novel? Unfortunately in several important scenes TenNapel commits the sin of telling us exactly what the characters think through a speech. Mike does it. Cam does it. Marcus does it. Even the evil cardboard monster does it. I often look to Jeff Smith’s magnum opus Bone when I read TenNapel’s work. Both are fantasy/humor hybrids with a cartoony style, but Smith allows much more subtlety in the dialogue and lets his excellent facial work tell a lot of the story. What is a bit galling is that TenNapel’s drawing skills exceeds Smith’s in many ways. He really doesn’t need clunky speeches for us to get emotion or spell out the book’s themes. However, with all the wit in ingenuity in this title readers will truly enjoy the book anyways. It’s just that this book is so close to being a perfect graphic novel gem, the (very) minor flaws do standout.
Fortunately, the strengths standout too. The book keeps new ideas and developments coming fast and is endlessly visually inventive. The huge array of cardboard creatures keeps getting better and better, and the final action packed chapters have loads of grisly cardboard carnage. The humor is really strong throughout as well. It’s really the best book of its kind since the Bone series and is a must read for any graphic novel fan.
You can check our catalog for Cardboard here.