CM . . .
. Volume XXIII Number 39. . . .June 16, 2017
Volcano Trash. (A Double+ Adventure).
Toronto, ON: Koyama Press, 2017.
96 pp., trade pbk., $12.00.
Grades 3-6 / Ages 8-11.
Review by Todd Kyle.
½ / 4
In this graphic novel, young treasure hunter Plus Man and his shapeshifting-robot sidekick Hank break into the desert lair of the Labyrinth in order to retrieve a digital card requested by their unnamed patron. Narrowly escaping, they discover that the card contains information about official corruption in Bolt City, so they destroy it. Their next job is to steal tablets from a temple complex where they are caught by police and imprisoned. Hank saves Plus Man, a minor, by taking blame for all their misdeeds. Plus Man is released but feels depressed and guilty, so he teams up with their sometime collaborator Basil, persuades the Labyrinth to help them, then breaks into the prison with the aid of the Labyrinth “triplets”—a mute being who can transform into three. With the help of a disgruntled police veteran, they free Hank and are met by the Special Investigations Force to expose the corruption. They then ponder an offer of a job to investigate the “wasteland” outside the city.
With no context and nothing in the way of explanatory background, the plot of this story is almost impossible to understand. The opening sequence, in which two Bolt City policemen are putting up Wanted posters for Plus Man and Hank, begins the cloudy confusion with vague references to a series of crime gangs that are never again mentioned. Even the main character (Plus Man) is not referred to by name until almost halfway through. The “corruption” theme is so sloppily presented that the reader will wonder if the author even understood the meaning of the word (the digital card has the words “people with dirty cash” on it, if that is any help). The plot goes from inanity to inanity: during the temple heist, Hank is incensed to learn that Plus Man has not applied for a “permit” (for theft?). Every character and plot twist seems random and arbitrary, and not in an intentional, Dadaist manner, instead seeming just sloppy.
Volcano Trash is a graphic novel, and it is the illustrations that carry more appeal than the text. There is some creativity in the setting—technological and Stone Age at the same time—and in the impossible vehicles and machines that Hank turns into. There is action, too: escapes, break-ins, vehicle chases. The color palette is interesting, tending towards muted browns, oranges, and pale blue. The visual jokes are few and far between—the best example being the “Have a Nice Day” inscription on the duo’s projectiles—but by and large, the illustrations again tend towards the random and de-contextualized. The structures depicted, as well as Hank, himself, have a repeated motif of a square nut, which seems to be related to the name Bolt City, yet in an inexplicable way. Finally, there is no reason at all given for the title of the book, which seems unrelated to any of the action or illustrations.
The overall impression one gets from reading Volcano Trash is that it was fun to write, but that there was no editorial process to channel that fun into something readable. Instead, it reads like the clandestine doodles of a 10-year-old cartoon fan.
Todd Kyle is the CEO of the Newmarket Public Library in Ontario and Past-President of the Ontario Library Association.
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