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Review of 'Prime Baby' TPB / HC

ICv2 Stars: 4.5 (out of 5)

Published: 04/01/2010, Last Updated: 11/30/1999 12:00am
Prime Baby TPB / HC
Publisher: First Second
Release Date: April 13, 2010
Price: $6.99 (Paperback), $13.99 (Hardcover)
Creator: Gene Luen Yang
Format: 64 pgs.; Full Color, 8.5” x 6.5” TPB with French Flaps
ISBN: 978-1-59643-612-1
Age Rating: 9-12
ICv2 Rating: 4.5 Stars out of 5

Gene Yuen Yang’s Prime Baby appeared in the “Funny Pages” in the New York Times Sunday Magazine, but it is much more impressive in this 64-page, complete collection.  While in many ways it is the best attempt by a cartoonist to inhabit the mind of a precocious young boy (in this case the 8-year-old Thaddeus K. Fong) since Bill Watterson’s Calvin & Hobbes, it is clear that Yang lacks Watterson’s ability to create individual comic strip installments that stand on their own as little comic gems.  However that failing is without importance when Prime Baby is presented as it should be in this superb graphic novel package with tasteful color design by Derek Kirk Kim.

The subject of Prime Baby is sibling rivalry seen exclusively from the perspective of the precocious and highly imaginative Thaddeus, whose mind is warped and enriched by the possibilities of science fiction.  Thaddeus’ place at the center of the universe is rudely jolted by the arrival of a baby sister.  Thaddeus, who has designed his own facial hair configuration, “The Thaddeus,” a sort of chin-doubled Fu Manchu that he hopes will aid him in his plans for world domination, deduces that his sister’s outbursts of baby talk syllables come only in series of prime numbers, which means that she is obviously an alien.  Being a thoroughly modern kid, Thaddeus videotapes his sister’s numerically significant vocalizations and posts them on YouTube.  When the dorky, non-threatening, sock-knitting “aliens” do arrive, Thaddeus’ sister is put in isolation at a secret government facility, and his only-child status is restored.  But it is a hollow victory.  Haunted by the lonely looks given him by his baby sister, he overcomes his sibling jealousy and fakes an alien infestation in his own body.  Soon he too is placed in the isolation ward where he bonds with his baby sister.

“Family” is often an encumbrance, but the lesson here is that it provides its compensations, even if we can’t see them at first.  Prime Baby is the kind of story that kids will love and parents can truly enjoy reading to their children.

--Tom Flinn: ICv2 VP-Content.
 
 
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