REVIEW: ‘Creature Tech’

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Creature Tech is a graphic novel published by Image Comics. Written, drawn, inked, and lettered by Doug Tennapel, with colors by Katherine Garner, and assistant colorers Christine Garner, Bryan Arfel Magnaye, Dirk Erik Schulz, Joe Potter, Radka Kavalcova. And book design by Joe Potter.

Creature Tech was originally published in black and white, by Top Shelf Productions in 2002. It is now being re-released in color for the first time by Image ComicsIt is a unique journey filled with science fiction, the supernatural, and some genuinely lovely character moments, all being wrapped up in a coating of weird and bizarre misadventure.

Dr. Michael Ong is ordered to return to his hometown, after leaving exasperated with the religious fervor, and intellectual ignorance displayed by the bulk of the populace, by the government where he is told to manage the Research Technical Institute, a warehouse for all technological, and supernatural, items the government doesn’t know what else to do with. Everything from disintegration rays, to ghosts and alien life forms are encountered with the walls of the R.T.I. – or Creature Tech as the locales have come to call it.

The storytelling in Creature Tech is, on some levels, a very difficult thing to get a handle on. The overall story in the broad strokes is a masterful blend of a far-fetched sci-fi/supernatural comedic adventure, expertly balanced with a humanizing story of personal growth, and acceptance.

As the main adventure skids more into the absurd, the author perfectly times moments for the main character to hit personal revelations and grow into a true piece of the town. However, some of the dialogue feels a bit rough. While I believe that is intentional in some spots, it has moments where it just doesn’t land for me.

Most of the inhabitants of the town are the classic backwoods yokel stereotypes we’ve all become accustomed to seeing in depictions of small rural communities. There are a couple of stand out exceptions. Dr. Ong’s assistant who taught himself quantum physics is a wonderful blend of small-town wisdom, while having all the high-end knowledge. And then there’s Katie. Katie is the focal point of many of the most endearing moments in this story, and the only real problematic moment as well.

Katie is the granddaughter of the owner of a local oddities museum, which brings her into contact with our protagonist. She has an atrophied hand and an Amblyopic eye, which has cast her as an outcast in this small rural community. Dr. Ong, when first meeting her, remembers her from high school where she was picked on mercilessly, causing him to feel a great amount of guilt over his childish behavior, and makes him strive to make amends.

For the most part this is a very moving aspect of the book which beautifully explores elements of acceptance and love. A particular silent sequence at one point got me a little teary eyed. It’s at the end of the book where things with Katie get a little troubled for me. After this wonderfully crafted subplot about acceptance and love that is woven into this tale they wrap it up with a moment that just feels much to ableist for my liking.

During the course of the story the characters acquire an item that is capable of healing any injury, including raising the dead. With one last use of the item remaining the main protagonist uses the item to heal Katie, without her knowledge. This is portrayed as a sweet gift done for Katie. And while I can see what the author was going for both the concept of doing something like this without consent, as well as furthering the attitude that someone is inherently better off by being “fixed” left a bad taste in my mouth. 

There is an element of science vs religion in this story that left me feeling a little confused with how it wraps up. Aside from some odd “religious gatekeeping” (for want of a better term) I wasn’t quite sure what I was supposed to take away from the conclusion to this side of the narrative. As an atheist, it might just be beyond me to wrap my brain around such things. However it wasn’t prevalent enough in the story to detract too much from the story for me.

The villain is a fun over the top classic crazy comic book bad guy that is present as much for comedic relief I feel as to be threatening. Armed with a bizarre destroy the world plan and army of minions he’s classic cackling villainy.

The only area where the books main plot struggled for me came in the introduction of an element (which I won’t spoil the nature of) but very much becomes a fix all element. When things start looking bad, oh, it can do that too! And this occurs several times over the course of the book.

The only other potential stumbling block is the art. While I wouldn’t say it’s bad, it has an overly cartoonish quality to it that might not appeal to all. With color being added for the first time with this release, the colorists did an excellent job matching the color style to the art style. It is simpler than some coloring I’ve seen, with a bit more of a flatness to it, but it pairs excellent with the art style and I’m glad no one attempted to mismatch the color style with the original art.

While a few problematic elements keep me from being able to praise this story as much as I might like I feel it is definitely worth a look if you enjoy a crazy over the top adventure that manages to keep itself grounded with a human quality that feels genuine and endearing.

Creature Tech is available wherever comics are sold.

Creature Tech
3.5

Tl;DR

While a few problematic elements keep me from being able to praise this story as much as I might like I feel it is definitely worth a look if you enjoy a crazy over the top adventure that manages to keep itself grounded with a human quality that feels genuine and endearing.