REVIEW: Space Dumplins
By Craig Thompson
320 pages, Scholastic Graphix, $14.99
Craig Thompson’s versatility is to be admired as he goes from Coming of Age romance with his Harvey award-winning Blankets, and then his more adult and fanciful Habibi. Now he is taking aim at the young adult market with his first offering for Scholastic’s Graphix imprint. Space Dumplins is an imaginative work about a plucky young girl and a band of misfit alien lifeforms trying to survive in a sector of space plagued by whale poop.
You see, there are creatures that exist in the vacuum of space, the largest of which are the space whales with their energy-rich excrement. The problem is that too much in a concentrated portion of space messes up the traffic, communications, and their hermetically sealed way of life. The economy is a rough one. We may have achieved the stars and found other races out there, coexisting to one degree or another, but people still struggle to keep jobs, do right by their families, and eke out an existence.
This is where we meet the Marlockes. Dad’s a lumberjack, plying the spaceways, collecting the poop, cutting it down to size, and transporting it. Mom is a talented fashion designer who is fortunate to be selected to work with the premier designer Adam Arnold on Shell-Tarr, the main space station in the region. They are fighting over money and the time apart. When a space whale attack destroys her school, Violet tries to transfer to the school on the station but is rejected because of her dad’s criminal past. More stress.
Then dad goes missing and things get murky. Thompson implies more than he ever reveals about the space station and the governing body of the region. Still, we get the sense the job dad went on is extralegal and they disavow knowledge of him and restrain mom from going in search. (And yes, if there’s a space whale, we will have our Jonah, not Jo-Nah, moment.) Of course, Violet is overlooked and she flies off to rescue him, accompanied by Elliot, a brilliant, sentient chicken suffering from abandonment issues and the amorphous, comic relief Zacchaeus. Each deal with issues of rejection and loss but clearly, we’re rooting for them to succeed.
Thompson switches tones often and sometimes propels the story at such a breakneck pace that keep track of who, what, where and why is a little obscured. But he makes up for that with humor and heart. Visually, the book is stunning thanks to filling every square inch of the page with details, reminiscent of Wally Wood’s EC SF stories. Dave Stewart’s color is a wonderful match for the visuals making this one of the most satisfying titles coming from the Graphix imprint in a long time.
Aimed at all ages, this book is a treat and well worth your time and attention.