This appealing all-ages title began its life at Zuda Comics with a four-page story about a web-slinging cowboy who spoke in pictograms (a.k.a. rebuses). When creator Josh Alves moved The Adventures of the Araknid Kid to Sugaryserials.com, he fleshed out the concept a little more. His hero was still a taciturn spider who expressed himself in riddles, but now he had a proper gig as de facto sheriff of Obie City, a Wild West town beset with bank robbers and dognappers. I’m pleased to report that the print edition, which collects the first complete story, retains the best elements of the original “pilot” episode—the “puzzling” dialogue, the groan-worthy puns, the fast-paced action sequences—while demonstrating greater coherence.
The Adventures of the Araknid Kid, Episode 1: Kracker and Flea
By Josh Alves
Crash Land Studios, 28 pp.
Episode One begins in the desert outside Obie City, where the proprietor of Ritz Nabiscov’s Flea Circus has pitched his tent for the night. As he and his star performer sit by the campfire, a meteor bursts through the atmosphere and lands on them, leaving an enormous crater in the desert floor. We then cut to a robbery in progress. The Jack Pack, a quartet of ne’er-do-wells who ride robotic horses, have punched a hole in the side of the Obie City Bank and are riding away with fistfuls of cash—until The Araknid Kid swoops down on them, using a mixture of agility and smarts to subdue them.
But The Kid doesn’t have time to savor his triumph, as another crisis is brewing: hundreds of cats and dogs have disappeared from Obie City without a trace. A trail of clues leads The Kid to Kracker and Flea, the sole survivors of Ritz Nabiscov’s Flea Circus, now transformed into powerful monsters thanks to the meteor’s radiation. The inevitable showdown between The Kid and the criminals leads to a satisfying, if predictable, outcome that nonetheless yields some delightful surprises along the way.
Alves’ artwork and storyboarding are well-suited to younger readers. He favors big panels with minimal background detail, allowing his nimble hero plenty of space to move freely. The character designs, like the backgrounds, demonstrate a similar economy of form, striking the right balance between simple shapes and eye-catching details such as the Kid’s goggles and the Flea’s jaunty green hat. On the whole, I like the muted color scheme of the main story, as it evokes the ochres and golds of a Wild West landscape. When contrasted with the more vibrant color scheme of the bonus story (which was originally posted at Zuda.com), however, Episode One looks a little flat, and might have benefited from a bolder palette.
I’m of two minds about the pictograms. On the one hand, some of them are too challenging for kids to solve on their own. (Heck, I was stumped by a few of them, and I’m no puzzling slouch!) Alves has helped stave off frustration by including the answer to each riddle at the bottom of the page, but some kids may find the puzzles too much of an interruption to become absorbed in the story. On the other hand, the puzzles make The Adventures of the Araknid Kid one of the few all-ages comics that’s well-suited for bedtime reading, as parents and kids can tackle the rebuses together, adding a new level of interaction to the experience.
When I interviewed Alves last August, he explained that his primary goal was to create a comic that “tells really great stories. The kind that work on multiple levels [and] engage the imagination of the young and not-so-young.” Judging from the first installment of The Araknid Kid, I’d say that Alves has succeeded, producing a rip-roaring adventure that’s free of objectionable content while still offering plenty of belly laughs and excitement. Recommended for ages four and up (for bedtime reading) and six and up (for reading on one’s own).
The Adventures of the Araknid Kid can be ordered through Josh Alves’s website. All images © 2009 Josh Alves.