REVIEW: Tin Man
By Justin Madson
Amulet Books, 224 pages, $17.99/$29.99
As coming of age graphic novel go, Tin Man is above average, a fine story of some other version of Earth with a young teen struggling to find his place in the world after the death of his grandmother. His older sister, Solar, has less time for him now that she has an, ugh, boyfriend, who happens to be a jerk. So, Fenn is left to tinker in the garage, hoping to complete a rocket ship and visit space.
While scavenging for spare parts at a junkyard, he meets up with Campbell, a tin woodsman who thinks there is more to life than merely chopping down trees in the forest. They become friends and the adventure takes off.
The book description calls it “equal parts The Iron Giant, The Wizard of Oz, Edward Scissorhands, and Freaks and Geeks” but it is heavily layered with Oz elements, making it very much an alternate reality from L. Frank Baum’s world. And it doesn’t need to be. In fact, all the reimagining of Oz, the wizard, the witches, etc., are actually distracting. Madson seems almost afraid to create his own story, relying on the Oz tropes to get him through, get him noticed.
The story of friendship, wanderlust, and growing up is perfectly fine although we’ve seen all these elements before. Madson’s strength is in making us feel for Fenn, Solar, and Campbell. The sibling relationship is one of the freshest aspects of the book as is the family’s easy acceptance of a mechanical being, accepting the other.
Madson’s artwork and color is effective and his dialogue smooth. The book is fine YA addition to the GN library and might get some to go back and sample Baum’s original work.