Note: Because I do not understand the relationship between this book and the version released in 2002 (to say nothing of the prose sequels that have already come out) I am writing this review from a perspective of sheer unadulterated ignorance. As far as I am concerned, this is the only pickle for me. You have been warned.
I should begin this review by being straight with you. I am not an impartial reader of this book. There have been times, more in my life than I can count, when I have craved a dill pickle spear. I admit it. The cat is officially out of the bad. I love pickles and I’m not ashamed of the fact. And magic pickles do sound tasty. On the other hand, I’m also a picky graphic novel reader. There’s so much tripe out there being produced for kids these days that anytime I get handed a new children’s GN my immediate reaction is to cringe. And Magic Pickle, for all its myriad charms, didn’t necessarily look like something I might enjoy. Still, I gamely plucked it up and found to my surprise that not only is it readable and fun, I also detect a sly understated wit at work here. As understated as scientifically advanced super veggies can be, anyway. Since big green superheroes tend to be of the “Hulk, smash!” variety, I suggest you take a moment out of your day to try your hand at a smaller equally green superhero, unafraid of villainous produce or footie pajamas.
His origins are super secret . . . or at least they were until he crashed through the bedroom floor of little Jo Jo Wigman. The heroic product of a scientist’s lunch and some particle confabulation, the pickle Weapon Kosher fights for truth, justice, yadda yadda yadda. Unfortunately, for every dill yin there’s a rotten yang to contend with. The Brotherhood of Evil Produce has just come out of hiding after more than 50 years, and that means that it’s time for the cryogenically frozen pickle to get back to serving justice. Of course, his lab is now located directly under the floor of young Jo Jo Wigman and she is NOT going to be kept out of the action. Jo Jo is fighting her own battles with the mean girl at school and it’s possible that the pickle might be just the answer she’s been looking for.
Morse’s drawing style is this elastic, energetic series of shifting panels and inserts. Images are constantly overlapping or going panel-less for maximum effect. You might not recognize it on a first reading, but Morse is doing some pretty fancy footwork with this story. For example, when Jo Jo starts spinning a crazy story about how she is wearing her pajamas at the bus stop because it’s the latest style and she’s coming from a swank party, her backgrounds alternate between starbursts, swirls, and a kind of eclectic cut paper effect. Morse doesn’t have to do this, y’know. In fact, it’s much easier to just draw boxes and put people in them without all the subconscious imagery. Easier, but less thrilling in the long run. The book doesn’t actually tell you who has done the coloring for this title, which is as pity. I don’t know that we can assume that Morse does his own, since that’s not always the job of the artist proper. If he IS the person responsible, though, then I doff my cap to him because the colors in this book are right proper.
My boss handed me this book with the note that it was hard to get around the name “The Romaine Gladiator”. So consider this your warning: If you have a low tolerance for fruit and veggie nomenclature and tomfoolery, best to avoid this puppy. I, for my part, was kind of charmed by Morse’s selections. Tell me you’re not just the slightest bit taken with these names from The Brotherhood of Evil Produce: Phantom Carrot, Squish Squash, Peashooter, and Chili Chili Bang Bang. Even as you read them you can see how this book will benefit from being read aloud. My own dad used to read us comic books sometimes when I was a kid, and I’m sure there will be many a young lad and lass who will enjoy hearing the sound of the pickle’s adventures.
Morse’s dialogue sort of sealed the deal for me, though. Weapon Kosher is a very Captain America kind of speaker. If he had a chin, it would be cleft. Jo Jo, on the other hand, is very much a smart alecky kid. In their first exchange, Kosher initially accuses Jo Jo of being “an agent of evil.” Her retort is a pointed, “Are you serious? I’m wearing footsie jimmies here.” Of course, Jo Jo’s cool head made it a bit difficult to believe that she really felt any suffering at the hands of the school’s Queen Bee, Lu Lu Deederly. You never see Jo Jo all that downtrodden after an exchange. Not that I really minded, but it meant that she didn’t have much of a story of her own to pair alongside Kosher’s escapades.
Still, as new graphic novel series go, this one’s a keeper. Even the requisite bad puns actually come off as funny (a near impossibility when you get right down to it). I may have had my fill of superhero graphic novels, but if you combine that old standard with the ingredients of a salad, the result is magic. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for future pickle adventures to come.
On shelves May 1st.
Notes on the Title: A very interesting choice. After all, this pickle is a product of science fiction, not fantasy. And yet it’s hard to argue with the fact that “Magic Pickle” rolls off the tongue while “Experimental Particle Confabulated Pickle” doesn’t sound good at all. “Weapon Kosher” is his proper name, but you can probably see why the marketing folks would have nixed that one in the bud. And I suppose that if the cover image conveys the super heroey aspects of the story then that’s all you need, eh?
Misc: Ooo. Design fans amongst you might wanna take a gander at Scott Morse’s blog. Purdy.