December 21, 2017
(+++) THE MORE THINGIES CHANGE…
The Bad Guys #5: Intergalactic Gas. By Aaron Blabey. Scholastic. $5.99.
Mutant Bunny Island #1. By Obert Skye. Illustrated by Eduardo Vieira. Harper. $12.99.
The epic, world-spanning, zombie-pervaded battle between bad guys who are determined to be good and an adorable, brilliant but monstrously evil guinea pig heats up further in the fifth volume of Aaron Blabey’s The Bad Guys series, which is every bit as ridiculous as the first four, if not more so. This is not an apt entry point for anyone unfamiliar with the sequence – each of these books picks up where the last one left off, so starting with any volume other than the first is a recipe for confusion (in addition to the intentional confusion lavishly ladled out by Blabey himself). In Intergalactic Gas, evil Dr. Rupert Marmalade, whose initial plan to flood the world with zombie kittens was foiled by the Bad Guys in the previous book, has mounted his zombification ray on the moon and is turning everything cute and cuddly, and some things that are not so cute and cuddly, into zombies, thereby bringing about the end of the world. He is doing this because, hey, why not? The Bad Guys have to stop him, and are encouraged to do so by the foxy Agent Fox, who in this book turns out to be pretty much useless. She tells Bad Guys leader Mr. Wolf to “borrow” a spaceship and fly to the moon while she stays behind, urging this course of action even though Mr. Wolf, who really is determined to be a good guy, quails at the thought of stealing the ship. Of course there would be no story unless he did steal it, so he does, and Legs the tarantula pilots it as Mr. Shark, Mr. Snake and Mr. Piranha go along for the ride. So does a large bag of burritos, the favored food these days of Mr. Piranha, who overeats them grotesquely. This becomes an important plot point when Mr. Wolf gets trapped outside Marmalade’s moon lair in a spacesuit and discovers Mr. Piranha in it as well – in an extreme state of flatulence that Mr. Wolf eventually uses to break through to his captured fellow Bad Guys and defeat Marmalade for the moment. It is not a long moment, as Marmalade reveals that he is not an adorable, harmless-looking little guinea pig after all but a gigantic, multi-eyed, multi-mouthed, multi-tentacled alien thing, thereby setting up what will be the sixth of these books, Alien vs. Bad Guys. As for this fifth volume, it is not one of the better ones in the series. The bathroom humor is overdone even for the age group at which the book is targeted, and the uselessness of Agent Fox is really getting kind of annoying by this point. Still, Blabey’s ridiculous drawings are as much fun as always, and the latest “brilliant disguise” of Mr. Shark – as a booster rocket containing Mr. Snake, Mr. Piranha and Legs, all of whom he has temporarily swallowed (along with the bag of burritos) – is as grossly silly as anyone could wish. Anyone addicted to this series, that is.
Mutant Bunny Island is not a continuation but the start of a series – the book is actually self-contained, but the number 1 on the spine gives the plan away – and it too features a transformation. A lot of transformations. Of bunnies, that is. Well, actually of people into bunnies. And then there’s the squid. You see, Obert Skye’s protagonist, Perry Owens, who narrates the book, knows nothing about the world (or Ohio, where he lives) except what he has learned by reading old issues of a now-discontinued comic book called “Ocean Blasterzoids,” featuring a noble squid named Admiral Uli. Perry gets the old comics from his Uncle Zeke, who lives on an island somewhere: “Uncle Zeke had always treated me more like an adult squid than a little kid,” explains Perry, who gets the latest delivery and exclaims, “Great inky beak,” when he finds a small piece of paper in the envelope – a single word, written in squid language, translating as “HELP.” This sets in motion Perry’s visit to the island where Uncle Zeke lives – Perry’s dad thoughtfully provides plenty of money for the trip even without having any idea of what is going on, and without talking to Zeke or doing much of anything, really, except functioning as an ATM. On the island, Perry meets a couple of locals, a boy and a girl, and becomes friends with both even though the boy, Rain, kind of lives by cheating people (including Perry), and the girl, Juliet, keeps headphones on all the time because they look cool, even though there is nothing to listen to on Bunny Island. The island’s mayor, Erwin Lapin, is determined to keep the place pure and natural, to the point of banning any and all snack foods, which makes it lucky for Perry that his luggage contains nothing but the snack foods on which he lives. Perry is supposed to be outlandish and funny, with comments such as, “You’ve got the pupils of a terrified tuna,” “Squid have big hearts” (referring to himself), “Wait a fathom,” and “The newts probably want to lull us into a dazed condition so they can begin their master plan of taking all the salt out of the ocean and going fresh.” About those newts: Perry believes that giant ones wearing trench coats are conspiring to get rid of all the salt in the oceans so newts can rule the world – he really believes this, since it is the basis of the comics he reads and he knows nothing except what is in those comics. All this gets to be a bit much after a while, as does the eventual discovery that Bunny Island is being victimized by a nefarious plot (not by newts, though) in which people are being turned into super-adorable rabbits because that will make it easier to steal their land, and this diabolical strategy is sure to succeed as long as nobody eats potato chips. The whole overly complex novel sounds more madcap and funnier when described in brief than it feels when read straight through, although it must be said that Eduardo Vieira does a fine job of creating the “Ocean Blasterzoids” comics that rule Perry’s world. Vieira’s wraparound cover of the bunnies and Perry is also a high point. Preteens who want more of Perry’s adventures can look forward to the implications of that “1” on Mutant Bunny Island, while those who are ready for mutants (or non-mutants) of some other kind will find that this book has a satisfactory ending that, unlike the endings of Blabey’s The Bad Guys series, is not simply a cliffhanger setting up the next entry in the sequence.