Thursday, October 21, 2010

Book-A-Day 2010 # 260 (10/21) -- Odd Is On Our Side by Koontz, Van Lente, & Chan

We all love to pick on cozy mysteries: they're silly, and unrealistic, and often inadvertently funny. Well, I love to pick on cozy mysteries -- I guess I shouldn't claim to speak for you. But there is a reason they're called "cozy" -- they are warm and inviting and pleasant and nice, and sometimes that's just what you want.

I haven't read the novels in Dean Koontz's "Odd Thomas" series, so I can't say how cozy those are. But the graphic novels that branched off from those novels -- first In Odd We Trust (which I reviewed for ComicMix) and now Odd Is on Our Side -- are remarkably cozy for books with attempted mass murder and serial killers, starting with a snappy line of banter between Odd Thomas (our hero, a pancake-slinging fry cook who can see dead people) and his girlfriend Stormy Llewellyn (who is almost too quirky and spunky to live) and continuing through the details of the snug little California town of Pico Mundo. In this book, we're introduced to the Nero Wolfe-esque (in girth, if not in agoraphobia) bestselling mystery writer P. Oswald "Ozzie" Boone and his visiting editrix Valerie Malavont (who are pretty quirky themselves), the former of whom provides the backstory, explaining that Pico Mundo doesn't have normal trick-or-treating on Halloween because a creep named Norman Turley poisoned a bunch of kids twenty-five years before.

So it's Halloween once again in Pico Mundo, but Odd has a feeling that something is going to go wrong -- well, actually, the ghost of Elvis has been dancing at him to indicate danger, like some bizarre human Vegas bee-pollen act. (I swear to god I am not making this up -- Odd and Stormy actually consult an Elvis expert to work out the message in his particular dance. I told you this book was quirky.) There's also a ghost-sheeted ghost kid -- how meta is it for an actual ghost to be dressed as a Halloween ghost? -- and the local highschool kids, who steal everyone's pumpkins every year, to add some more confusion.

Eventually the quirk tide ebbs somewhat, allowing the suspense tide to come in, and there's a moderately exciting climax -- though the villain, and his capture, has a Scooby Doo-ish air to it, as if he's Old Man Jenkins trying to run everyone off his land to work the secret silver mine. Odd does save the day, and helps out his ghost pals, which I suppose is the point -- it's not overly cozy, but there's at least a hint of snuggliness in Odd Is On Our Side.

Queenie Chan's art still has some distracting manga influences -- the police chief, in particular, looks like a caricature Westerner in a second-rank shonen fighting story -- and some foreground elements (telephones, pistols) change size distractingly from panel to panel. But she integrates the humor well into the serious story -- and that's definitely something, since there's quite a bit of unlikely humor here -- and keeps the action moving with her wide-eyed, eternally happy-looking characters. The story -- scripted by Fred Van Lente from some kind of minimal plot (and subsequent kibitzing) by series author Dean Koontz -- doesn't settle into any consistent tone, but I have to assume that Koontz wanted it that way, so I can't blame Van Lente. And it is all undeniably cozy, which I presume is what the series fans want. So: here it is; maybe it will feel less like a soup of random quirks to those who have read the novels.

Book-A-Day 2010: The Epic Index

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