Plot Summary: Garth is a young man with an unnamed terminal disease. He has a rather morbid view on death, which disturbs his mother. At this point, it seems Garth has already accepted his fate. One day, Frank Gallows of the Supernatural Immigration Task Force pays Garth's home a visit. While Frank is zapping ghosts back to the afterlife Ghostbusters-style, he accidentally zaps Garth back to the afterlife too. Garth rides a creepy horse skeleton through the strange new world and meets a varying cast of characters from bug-like people and the Skeleton King. The Skeleton King feels threatened by Garth's view on death which only becomes more strange when Garth meets a man who looks uncannily like his dead grandfather.
Critical Analysis: TenNapel's style is hard to not smile at. Between his exaggerated art and joke-ridden dialogue, this is a fun read. Ghostopolis is a lushly colored graphic novel not unlike Jeff Smith's recolored Bone series on GRAPHIX. The art could definitely be described as cartoony; the characters reminded me from a few from The Iron Giant. TenNapel's dialogue is simple but funny most of the time and he has a penchant for gross out humor.
One of the more impressive things about TenNapel's Ghostopolis is that he deals with the emotional issues at hand very well. The book is not weighed down by Garth's potential fate, Garth's disease is just a part of who he is. Emotional realizations can sometimes be melodramatic, but that's more attributable to TenNapel's style rather than writing talent. When Garth meets the man who looks like his grandfather, he treats the man like a friend rather than a creepy apparition. Garth's ability to live in the present and accept his fate whether he's in the afterlife or has been dealt a painful blow in real life is commendable and makes him a great protagonist.
Reader's Annotation: Garth could be described as a bit morbid, but when he's zapped into the afterlife, he gets a lot closer to dancing with death than he'd ever imagined!
Author Information: Doug TenNapel started as a videogame designer, he created Earthworm Jim. The game and his comics draw many parallels with quirky characters and gross-out humor. TenNapel is a devout Christian and writes about science and religion in another graphic novel of his, Creature Tech. Both Creature Tech and Ghostopolis's film rights have been purchased, so it seems possible that TenNapel's work will soon become much more well known.
Genre: Young Adult Graphic Novel/Fantasy
Curriculum Ties: N/A
Booktalking Ideas: Why is Garth so obsessed with death? Would you be the same in this situation?
Draw your idea of what the afterlife would look like. Is it a bustling metropolis like TenNapel imagined?
Reading level/interest age: Grades 7 and up
Challenge Issues: N/A
Challenge Defense Ideas: No challenge issues come to mind when reading this book. The best defense is having a strong knowledge of the book, so becoming familiar with it by reading reviews, finding other opinions, and reading it one's self is a good start. One could also refer to the library's collection development policy here.
Why I included this title: I came upon this in my library's graphic novel section right after it was released and I picked it up because the cover and the art looked so amazing. This graphic novel has instant shelf appeal, I think young adults would do the same as I did and check it out. As previously mentioned, I liked how the subject matter was treated. TenNapel did not spend his time making you feel bad for poor Garth, he let it teach the reader a valuable lesson in self-image.