Monday, June 5, 2017

The Creeps

The Creeps is a series of books about a group of four misfits/monster hunters/detectives who just can't seem to catch a break in their school or town. They live in a community beset by horrible creatures, where people are routinely hounded or eaten by strange beasts, and they are only further ostracized when they try to help. Still, I feel that their bad luck and treatment make for some very compelling stories and relatable characters (who does not love an underdog?).

The quartet is made up of some strong, distinct personalities. Carol is good with computers and technology; Rosario is mightily strong and also into fashion; Mitchell is a monster expert with a vast library, and Jarvis is an inventor who specializes in blowing up his pants. You can see them all do their thing here:
In their first book, Night of the Frankenfrogs, they have to contend with creatures cobbled together from critters stolen from their biology class. Their inquiries lead them into all kinds of interesting, icky places, like sewers and the lair of dethroned and bitter science fair champion. The case goes in many directions, and I have to say that the solution makes sense, but I did not see it coming. I also liked that the characters here are firmly established in their town, making all kinds of references to past cases and beasts they have dealt with. This world is a rich one to tell stories in.
The reviews I have read about this book have been mostly positive. Esther Keller wrote, "This will be a definite hit with middle grade readers." Kirkus Reviews commented that "Schweizer's cleanly paneled art is bright and busy, ever ready with a gag that helps blend the ghastly with the goofy, making his gang’s antics reminiscent of Scooby Doo." Robert Greenberger was cooler on the book, noting, "The dialogue is interesting but his characters feel not fully realized and it could be Schweizer’s working with too large a cast and too big a story for a first offering."

The Trolls Will Feast! is the second The Creeps book, and I hate to say it, but this is the book that actually brought this series to my attention. It is nominated for a 2017 Eisner Award for Best Publication for Early Readers (up to age 8), a fact I find a bit puzzling. Not the nomination, as I feel that Chris Schweizer is a very talented and deserving comics creator whose past works (like the Crogan's Adventures) I have loved. But this book feels like it is aimed at an older audience than 8-year-olds. I feel it's more a middle school or young adult-type book. Still, I did not even know these books existed until I saw this nomination, so I am glad for Schweizer and also to have found them.

The second book ramps up the excitement, humor, and intrigue, focusing on the mysterious disappearance of some of the Creeps' classmates (who get eaten by trolls at the very beginning of the book, one of the factors that leads me to think this book series may be more for older elementary or middle school readers). The trolls, it turns out are an ancient race who periodically feast on humans, and their methods for preparing their meals are pretty diabolical.
This book's plot I found more intricate and tightly woven together than in the first book, and I marvel at how many gags, jokes, and details get crammed into every page. I found both highly enjoyable and entertaining, and I am very much looking forward to reading volume three. I also hope to see more books in the series, as I can find no mention of a book 4 as of yet.

The reviews of this second volume were stronger than for the first, with much praise heaped on it. Kirkus Reviews summed it up as "a satisfying and rollicking sophomore offering that improves on the first." Robert Greenberger concluded, "This is a stronger offering and shows greater command of the characters and their setting so the series is taking on a nice shape." Kat Kan wrote that it "will appeal to a wide range of young readers hungry for horror-lite monster stories."

For those interested in his works, Schweizer tweets here and also blogs here and here. He speaks about his work on The Creeps books in this interview and also in this interview.

Both of these The Creeps books were published by Amulet Press, and they have previews and more information about them here and here.

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